Sitting at her desk, the latest report regarding the attempt to reestablish communication with the Colonies on Earth scrolled across her desktop. Disgusted she swiped it away; as realization hit, the virus was already on board the station. The president reviewed the data and began to seconded guessed her decision to break with their self imposed isolation, but then Hilo was on the presuppose of unsustainability. There were fewer and fewer Outer Rings to cannibalize for materials each year. No she had had no choice but to reach out.
Swiping the next report into view, estimate number of deaths was on the rise, she could not let this spread to the rest of the station. They had already lost Vina and Illiana to this plague. The Lower docks would have to be closed off, she must cut off the arm to save the patient, then that is what would be done.
As she reviewed Lisa's report of the citizen's living in the lower docks, she was struck by the sheer number of Serf families that lived in this area. her fingers drummed the desk top, this area should have been reserved for dock works and manufacturing; it was supposed to be reserved for just that group. But the names of women and children scrolled across her desk contradicted what she thought reality set in as Olga name along with her whole family were among those listed to be currently living in the lower docks. Her mind made up, President Stanton pressed the Commons button, "Lisa Please come to my office."
Moments later, Lisa Vinavong appeared in the door way, standing barley 5 foot in her heels dressed in perfectly tailord pencil skirt and silk blouse Lisa was a speck of a woman, that many would and had underestimated to there own undoing. Her hair was held in place in a long glossy black braid falling over her shoulder framing her heart shaped face and almond eyes. The President was certain Lisa could carry out her orders, she just was not sure if she would protest.
Picking up a copy of the her orders she handed it to Lisa, "Ms. Vinavong, I have made my decision on how we will deal with the spreading illness. Send a contingent of medical staff and researches down, and then lock down the lower docks no one in and no one out."
"Madam President, do you mean to cut them off?"
"Yes I do. We will support them the best we can, but we need to focus now on learning how to prevent the disease and not allowing it to spread to the rest of the Colony."
"But Madam President, there are hundreds of families in that part of the station. People we know live there. They will die if you do this?
"Lisa I have seen the list, I know who lives there. We have already lost some of our own to this, I will not let the number of our casualties increase."
"There could be back lash if the Serf's try and riot or escape."
"I am counting on you to handle the details. If you think you can not, or are unwilling to do what is needed; tell me now."
" Madam President, I will carry out your orders." Taking the report from the President, Lisa knew she would do what the President asked, but she would also inform the Regents of this latest action.
Looking over her shoulder as the door to the President's office slide shut, Lisa caught a glimpse of the woman whom she had once held in such high esteem. Her silver hair was the only thing that belied her age, at six feet she maintained a slender frame, she was a striking figure. Her very presence demanded attention and respect she was one of the Viceroy's that had that noble appearance.
Back in her office Lisa looked out the portal, Earth was rising back lit by the sun, it looked like a planet on fire, sighing she had held out the briefest hopes that one day she would breath real air. Sliding into her chair, Lisa tapped her Commons, and the Regent's secretary appeared on the screen. "I need to make a report."
"Yes Ms. Vinavong, I will connect you." Moments later the Regent's voice filled the room.
"You have something you feel we need to know?"
"Yes Regent, the President has decided to cut off the Lower Dock and abandon the people there."
"That does not surprise me, I believe that it is the best course of action and the other Regents are in agreement."
"Sir what will happen when the Serf's find out, what we have done this to save our selves."
"They will accept this like they accept their servitude."
"Yes Sir." Disconnecting the feed Lisa was dismayed by the Regent's response but she could not say she was surprised by it. Why would one of the Regent's the very top of their social hierarchy put themselves, or even the Viceroy and the Vassals in jeopardy for the life of a Serf, even if that meant hundreds had to die to save even one of their class.
For the first time in her life Lisa had to admit that ones life and now death was dictated by a simple chance of birth.
Iliana peers out the portal a smile lights up her face, "See Vina I told you we would make it home. Can you believe it has only been a couple of days; it seems like months." As they maneuver into the docking flight path, they have to circle Ex Nihilo. The glowing white column circled by two rings, one in the at the mid point of the station and the other smaller ring just below it, they seemed to float around the center column and it was spinning like a top in space. Ex Nihilo one of three remaining Colonies of humanity, most of its citizen called it Hilo for short. Almost a million people lived in the space Colony but its population was grow, and that was the reason Vina and her had gone to the Cave City Colony, but she was worried because the information she was bring back was not what they had hoped.
Vina glided the POD into the docking bay, "Well I am glad we made it back. But I do not look forward to tell the President or the Regents about the results of our mission to Cave City. Are you sure you want to tell them everything?"
Sighing, the argument getting old after the 13 hour flight back up from the planet, "Vina we have an obligation to Rachel, Andrew, Josef and the others to at least layout the proposition to the President and Regents. If we can render aid to Cave City, when they settle back into a stable government, they will be able to provide us with the raw materials that we need."
Vina groans, if she had been unsure about the fact that humanity could never return to the planet this trip had crystalized the idea in her mind, "Iliana there is no possible hope of return. The people left in on the planet, in Cave City were more barbaric and uneducated then the lowest of the Serfs, on Hilo."
Iliana cringes at this comment, as she disagrees on a fundamental level that the Serfs as a people are barbaric but the prejudice is not uncommon, "What about the Browns?" Iliana challenges.
"The Brown's are an exception, I do not even know how they survive down there. But they are not worth the safety or lives of any one in Hilo. And that is what I am going to tell the President and the Regents."
Iliana never understood, how and why Vina had been assigned to go with her to Cave City. The fact that she came from the Vassal Class had put some people off, but for Iliana that was not her problem with Vina her problem was her clear hatred for anything she felt was below her. "Well to be clear, I will advocate involvement as the best course of action." This was not the first time she had wished that Matt had been the one assigned to go with her, he would have backed her up.
Vina glared at the Iliana she could not understand how someone with her ranking from the Viceroy class could not see just how lowly the people of Cave City were, and how impossible it would be the citizens of Cave City to every be able to relate to anyone in Hilo. Rachel Winterton had been the lowest and basis among those in Cave City and the one Iliana had liked the most. "Normally I would be obligated to back you up, but under these circumstances I will not yield to that obligation."
"Really you are going to challenge me on this, Vina. Why would you do such a thing. For spit or fear/"
"I will do it because my belief is that we should wait and not side with either side. I will recommend that we watch the Colony and revisit at some point to see about recolonization of the city once they kill each other off. It will allow us to divert some of the serf growth to the surface and gain the raw materials that we need."
Iliana looked at Vina horrified but not surprised by the recommendation. "That is very fitting of you Vina."
The airlock clicked into place on the POD's hatch and the bay pressurized and seconds later it was flung open. Kenia's smiling face filled the portal her opal eyes changed from blue green brown and glowed as she cheerfully greeted Iliana "Glad to see, you Iliana. Though we were not expecting you back for at least another week."
Glad to be greeted by Kenia of all people, Iliana sighed with relief, "Yep, we had to cut the trip short and I have to share what happened with the President and Regents as soon as I can."
"I Notified Vicereine Vinavong when I realized it was your POD that was approaching, But you will still need to be processed through quarantine and we need to monitor you for pressure sickness for the next 72 hours."
Unclicking the safety harness that secured her to the seat Iliana floated up, towards the hatch and Kenia's out stretched hand. As she entered the hanger, Iliana allowed Kenia to guide her through the weightless environment, Unlike must of the colony this part of the station was kept at nearly zero g. After the gravity of earth, and life in in Hilo orbital gravity, Iliana always got a little nausea in zero G to keep her mind off her tremulous stomach Iliana began the tactic of rambling " I am glad it was you on duty...it is nice to see a friends face...one who understand the weight of what I am doing...so is there anyway we can shorten that time frame and I can speak to the President sooner...." lower her voice "and before Vina if at all possible."
Pushing past Iliana Vina looks at the two women in disdain, she could never understand how a friendship between a Serf and a Viceroy could work..."Get me into quarantine and decompression now. Serf"
Kenia looks at the woman as she floats past, most of the Serf in the hanger blocks hated her, which was bad for her as she was a POD pilot, from the way she acted one would think that she was a Vicereine of Iliana's standing not a Vassal grinning Kenia decides to put her in her rightful place.
Yes Vassal Dreke, I will get to you have I have attended the Vicereine Tovar, her care takes priority. As you know."
Iliana knows what Kenia is doing and remains silent, though she would never try and make someone feel inadequate or less than her because of a chance of birth, people like Vina made that hard.
Vina looked back at Kenia from the door of the hanger, her dark eyes hooded in anger concealing any beauty her average face may have held, "Fine but move fast... Every second I am waiting on you to do your job, is putting me in jeopardy of pressure sickness."
Kenia floats by guiding a chattering Iliana into the Med bay, "Oh don't worry I have someone coming down to attend to you. "
Iliana looks back at Vina sorry for her last hateful thought, "Kenia maybe you should go help Vina first. I would not want anyone to get sick on my account."
With her back to Vina; "Do not worry Iliana. She will be fine Olga is on her way down in a minute to take care of Vina. I have you."
As she enters the Med bay, Olga floats pass touching Iliana's shoulder, "You okay?" Iliana's smiles is her answer