Sands

“Members of the House, we thank you for your patience and your audience this day.” Charles says to open the meeting as he stands at the centre of the massive cylindrical room. Along the edges of more than eighty percent of the continuous curve are seats. The seats are set out in tiers of more than a dozen rows, each of which is higher than the last, and all of which are occupied.

A sea of serious, solemn, humourless looking faces having grown weary from the years upon years of service stare back immune to the charm of even the most charismatic of speakers. Charles knows this, but pays the compliments nevertheless, before continuing. A naïve man would have expected a reaction, he did not.

“You have called us today to present our progress with the synthetic programme.” Charles continues.

“Yes, yes. We all know why we’re here. Can we just get on with this?” A particularly grumpy and despondent sounding voice says from one of the higher tiers.

“We may know the purpose, but we shall not rush our customs.” An old voice says from an equally high up tier. The voice’s tone is saturated with irritation at the outburst made by the previous speakers’ interjection and impatience.

“Continue.” A third voice calls from a mid tier off to Charles’ left, clearly in agreement with the second voice.

“We regret to inform the House that progress has not yet rewarded success.” Charles says now, his voice still calm and sure.

Roger has to hand it to Charles; he really does appear to believe that success will come.

“Another failure!” A voice cries.

“Outrageous!” Another chimes in.

“Useless!” Someone calls loudly.

“Hopeless!” Comes the cry.

“Thieves!” Someone heckles.

“Crooks!” Then can be heard to be shouted.

“Charlatans!” Soon follows.

All the calls are roared one after the other until the previous silence is buried beneath a cacophony of noise. The cylindrical room is filled with abusive calls, all of which are being hurled in response to Charles’ words and at Charles. This is the third such tirade this morning as representatives of both Salvadore-Triturn and Richards-Goss have also declared much the same upon their arrival for the meeting in this room. 

Roger does have to admit however, that Charles has worded their announcement of failure in far better terms than their adversaries had managed, or likely ever could. He takes that as a plus. It’s the only one he can find. Though, he also knows that the tirade won’t come to an end unless it is ended, so he stands and steps forward to join Charles so that they are side-by-side.

“Assembled members.” Roger’s voice bellows, quietening the noise, though not quite entirely silencing it.

“You have asked the impossible of us, all of us. The synthetic programme will not reach the next level unless certain precepts, number seventy three to be exact, are reversed. ‘Til that day, we, the corporations, will flounder and fail to deliver what you want of us.” Roger continues his voice strong and sure as he ignores the few still bickering, mainly to themselves.

“You sir, were a part of their founding. You know the madness that broke out before their formation. The death toll that we suffered as a species, that came in the wake of our failures to legislate. And now you stand here saying that we should revert them. Do you wish for those dark days to return? Are you mad? We barely survived then, we certainly wouldn’t now.” A strong voice from the centre of the mass of faces speaks. The voices tone is astonished by Roger’s words.

Roger has no clue who, or exactly where from, the owner of the voice is among the representatives. It’s impossible to fathom out such a thing with this mass of tiers and people, and that is how the members of the house like it. They know it gives them control. Or at least they think it does. To Roger is makes them weak. They refuse to speak as a person and instead hide behind the mass. Its part of the reason the house is so unpopular, not just with the people but also among the corporations too. They spend too much time meddling and moving the goal posts while offering little in return.

The house, at least to Roger, is just a room full of men bickering, and that is the exact reason why he left. He couldn’t stand the people or the place for one more day.

“We didn’t have the boundary then. Times have changed. We changed them, the corporations. We didn’t seek approval, we did and you agreed. The laws came later. It was no different then, than it is now. You have a task which you say is paramount to our survival as a species. Then give us the tools we need to do this. Or come to terms with the reality that we will all die out here in this cold, dead, black.” Roger hadn’t planned any of what he’s just said; the words had just flown through him, but they have the affect he had hoped they would. Silence. The House had never been this quiet, about anything. There had always been a few crying their machinations or calling for dismissal, but not this time. This time they talked, like they were supposed to, among themselves, and without abuse or outrage. Their chatting lasted for a time before they were ready to deliver their verdict.

“Mammoth Tech, and Mammoth Tech alone, will be granted permittance to run simulations in contradiction to Precept seventy three.” One of the members of the house says from among the mass as faces, while the others remain silent. It’s another first for this place and the people that serve within it and Roger has to stifle a smile as he stands before them.

“That’s outrageous!” The representative of Richards-Goss exclaims angrily in protest to the Houses decision. The representative had been grinning gleefully sure that the House would remove Mammoth Tech once and for all from this race. He knew that if such a thing occurred his bosses would have been enraptured by it as Mammoth Tech is their main competitor.

“However, Mammoth Tech’s simulation deck will have to be minimally staffed and kept at a distance of sixteen miles from the rest of the deep space caravan, is that understood?” The voice continues having ignored the protests without pause.

The owner of the voice and the rest of the members know who the protest has come from as they stare disapprovingly at the Richards-Goss representative. The man, wearing a black suit with crimson lapels, visibly shrinks in his seat at the mass of eyes burrowing into him with displeasure.

“It is House members, and we thank you.” Charles says with a reverential tone that is accompanied by a slow bowing of his head.

Roger on the other hand says nothing. He knows why the House agreed. Either Mammoth Tech will succeed or fail. If they succeed the House will spin the landslide decision as a personal victory that they would then be able to use to help them bolster their waning support among the voting population. If it fails, Mammoth Tech will be ruined, eliminating them from the field of play. They will be made a scapegoat and be said to have been acting against the wishes of the House and in direct violation of the law.

Roger doesn’t like it, but it’s about the best he and Charles are ever going to get. Now they would just need to make it work consistently without any issue or disaster, and all before the next scheduled check-in, three months from now. Roger already knows he’s going to be faced with a lot of long sleepless nights as he feels a migraine coming on.

“Congratulations.” Craig Salvadore, the synthetic programme director at Salvadore-Triturn and son of Marcus, the CEO of the corporation, says .

“Let’s hope you don’t choke.” The young sharply dressed and very rich man says with a mocking smile. Roger and Charles ignore the young man however, as they head for the Trans-Tram that will soon depart Independence.

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