Space 2315, Chapter 6

Sofie Taske stared over the sights of the rifle in her hands. There, down ranges of roughly fifty, one-hundred, one-hundred-fifty, two-hundred-fifty, and three hundred meters there were wooden targets with bull’s-eye painted on them. She had a pair of earplugs in her ears and a pair of eye protection goggles on. She closed her non-firing eye as a cloud that once covered the sun went away thus the sun was now directly in her eyes. Her father stood behind her, with his own earplugs and a pair of binoculars and said in German. “Okay, now ease back on the trigger.”

Sofie nodded her head, established her sight picture again, breathed in, and then out, and slowly increased the pressure on the trigger as her breathing paused. Slowly, easy, never jerking the trigger or anticipating the shot. The M1 Garand bucked against her shoulder. The rifle kicked like a mule. She suppressed a small wince at the recoil. The used casing ejected from the weapon as it chambered a new round.

She fixed her aim on a new target and fired again and hit the target. Then again with another. The used casing flew out of the side of the rifle and hit the dirt below. She fired again and nailed the next target. She took aim at the three-hundred meter target, controlled her breathing, double checked her sight picture, and fired. She flipped on the safety and got up from the prone-supported position to stand.

Her father raised the binoculars to his eyes and peered down range. “Very impressive, you hit the target almost dead center. Have you been practicing?”

“Yes,” she replied in the same language with her mezzo-soprano voice. She went down into the kneeling position and brought the butt stock of the rifle to her shoulder again. She flipped the safety off and fired again before continuing in German as well. “A little bit on my own and sometimes with a few of the field hands.”

“For one who told me one time that she’d never think of going into the military, you’re turning into quite the markswoman. This is kind of strange for one who is thinking about going into medicine,” her father answered. “Makes me wonder I tell you.”

Sofie looked back at her father. It was true; if anything she would try and get her M.D. through the Space Force. She didn’t support the war against the Allied Colonies for Freedom like many people this far out on the frontier. The New Germany star system was on the other end of Human Federation space and was about as far from the ACF as possible. Even so, the anti-Earth sentiment existed in the New Germany star system but wasn’t at all strong like it was in other places. The people who disliked the Human Federation enough to advocate breaking away were, thankfully, a very small minority. Occasionally they’d have a rally or march somewhere but few people really paid them any mind.

Even her father resented the war, although he tried not to say so where she could hear him. Sofie saw it the few times she looked at the books for the farm. Taxes went up, surely to support the war effort. Don’t get her wrong, her and her father may not support the war itself, but they did support the troops who fought in it. After all, her father did serve in the Human Federation Army before she was born.

Her father looked back at her. When had his daughter turned into an eighteen-year-old girl? Was it not just yesterday that he was sending her off to grade school? She was done with her senior year in high school and now she was going to college soon! To the Freie Universität Berlin on Earth, no less! When had that happened? Probably when he hadn’t been looking. Did she even know what she was going to find back on Earth now? It wasn’t quite the same Earth they left. They always said that you could never go home again. In a lot of ways that was true.

She shrugged her shoulders, “Well dad, you know how this planet can be sometimes.”

Kurt nodded again and patted his daughter on the shoulder. She looked at him, smiled briefly, and then fired again. Despite the planet having been settled for almost eighty years there were still predators out there, some of them being large enough to go after humans. There weren’t any predators near major cities but out here in the country they sometimes posed a problem. Most farmers and their field hands had at least a pistol (more often a shotgun) on them at all times for just such an occasion.

Sofie emptied the clip, watched the cartridge eject from the gun, flipped the safety back on, and then knelt down to police the brass. She placed the casings into a leather bound bag and turned back to the horses tied to a post not far away. She walked up to her horse, Ellie, and stroked the animal’s head to calm her down.

She undid the rope holding the horse to the post and swung up and onto the animal and patted its neck before flicking the reins. Her father rode up beside her on his own horse. “So,” he began, “now that your finals are over and graduation is past, what are your plans?”

The teen looked up at the blue, intensely blue sky. It was bluer than she remembered Earth’s being. The atmosphere here was different and the system’s primary was brighter and hotter than Sol. She really didn’t want to have this discussion. Instead she turned to him and said, “Why, I’m going to stay on the farm and work for the rest of summer. You know that.”

“Sofie…,” her father said slowly, “You know what I mean.”

He was talking about what her and her friends were going to do in the very near future. She didn’t want to talk about it, seeing as how she knew he would most likely disapprove. He usually disapproved of a lot of things she wanted to do. She went around him to do a few of those things. Sure, she felt guilty afterwards and the one or three times she had been caught hadn’t been pleasant but it was worth it in the end.

Her father fuzzily remembered what he did after his college graduation. It involved a biergarten in Germany with plenty of beer, food and women. He needed one of his buddies to make sure he got back to his place that night. He woke up the next morning with a woman from his graduating class in his arms. That was well before he met his wife and Sofie’s mother. He would never tell his daughter he did such things. Why voluntarily undermine his authority?

She knew better than try to lie to her father. He’d find out somehow. She sighed, wishing she could already be at college and away from here. “We’re going to head out to Lake Huroa to spend some time together as a class, one last time.”

Rather unexpectedly her father said “That’s all I wanted to know. Have fun. You can take the truck too. I don’t need to go into town today.”

Sofie’s head whipped around to look at her father. He had a wide grin on his face. “Well, you’re going to Earth for college. I have to learn to let go at some point, don’t I?”

Sofie knew her mouth was hanging open. She couldn’t help it. She was sure he wouldn’t allow her to go to Earth, instead wanting her to stay on New Germany. She was doubly sure that he wouldn’t want her to go with her classmates somewhere unsupervised. She figured he’d trot out the age old argument that he’d been a teenager once and he knew how they acted.

Sure, he let her learn how to handle a rifle and how to fly their only airplane, a replica Grumman F6F Hellcat; however, in other cases he’d all but run her life. In school it hadn’t gotten much better. For good reason too. She was the daughter of a very well-to-do farmer and brewer.  Some people always thought of her as highborn no matter how much she tried to convince them otherwise. All that accomplished were quiet whispers of the “noble girl” trying to play the role of a “commoner.”

In the end she all but gave up trying. That was before Clara Herrmann and Daniela Meyer, two classmates who looked beyond Sofie’s supposed “high birth” to become her best friends; her only true friends. They found out that Sofie didn’t live that differently from them (in fact she didn’t at all!) and she wasn’t a noble like her other classmates thought she was. When you compared her and her father to people living on other colonies they were only modestly well off. The only reason they had the money they did was because her father saved, invested, and spent wisely the money he inherited from his father combined with his army pay. In the end it bought them a decent tract of land on a backwater colonial world. If that made her aristocratic Sofie wanted to weep at the hilarity of it all. Compared to people on Earth and the more established colonies they were barely upper middle class!

She did some digging into her family’s history a few years ago, just to see if there was any truth to what her classmates said about her being “high born.” She found a reference in her family tree to a line of German aristocrats and kings stretching as far back as the 1500s. After eight-hundred years the “noble” blood had to be awfully thin.

“Um… I guess so,” she managed to say finally.

“I know that I have been… overbearing in raising you Sofie,” he began. “I know how other people view you and I know that that doesn’t help. It’s just that, after your mother died I didn’t know what to do.” The girl looked at her father and watched the sadness she’d seen many times before come over him again. “You have to understand, you were only four and here I was with our farm and brewery, and a young daughter who was now completely dependent upon me. I guess I was scared and I stayed scared for the next thirteen years of your life.”

“Father, just because you were scared doesn’t give you the right to dictate what I could or couldn’t do after I grew up,” Sofie said, maybe just a little too hotly. She watched her father flinch at her words. “I never got the chance to live the way other people my age do. I worked on your farm, just as many of my classmates did for their own parents, but they got to socialize more than I did. I never really got to act like a normal kid, partly because people were afraid of the ‘noble girl’ and her ‘baron’ of a father. And before you ask, by living I don’t mean loose like some of the girls in my class. You raised me better than that. I am better than that and you know it. In a lot of ways, I’ll thank you for that.”

Her father was silent for a few minutes with the only sound between the two of them being the clip-clop! of the horses’ hooves. Finally, he spoke up, “You’re right.”

Sofie looked at her father in astonishment, “I… I am?”

“Yes, you’re right. I held you back from a lot of things and that may have pushed that ‘nobility’ image that some people got from us.”

Sofie thought about it for a few moments in order to calm down. “Well, I suppose I could see it from your point of view, especially after mom died. That still doesn’t condone holding me back from so many things all these years. You still don’t want me going to Earth either. You’re letting me, but that doesn’t mean you want me to go.”

“No it doesn’t condone it but the past is the past. As for going to Earth, I’m still not sure you know what you’re getting into. I suppose you need to find out for yourself. I don’t want you to go, yes, but I guess you have to see it for yourself. Letting go is hard; trust me. You’ll understand when you have kids of your own. You’re going to another solar system after all.”

“Maybe I will,” Sofie admitted with a soft sigh to herself. “I just might. But besides, with FTL communications because of the jump gates I’ll be but a video call away. I promise that I’ll call you as often as I can.” Her father nodded his head, he seemed to have liked that last part. She looked ahead to where the farmhouse and the fields of barley, rye, and wheat growing in the distance. Field hands looked up from the machinery and waved to her father and her. Kurt waved back to them before turning to his daughter again. “I’m going to go help the workers.”

Sofie watched him go off before continuing onto the stable near the house. She moved the horse into its stall then dismounted to give it a feedbag full of oats. She groomed the horse and made sure it was properly cared for before going up to the back door of the house. Inside she took her work boots off and placed them beside the door. Gretchen Adler, their housekeeper, would’ve been furious if she walked in the house with dirt and mud trailing behind her.

The girl set the rifle by the stairs but not before checking the safety one more time before going up to her bedroom to change into a short denim skirt off a hanger and a white spaghetti strap halter top. The outfit was modest in the sense that it covered what it needed to but was deceptively daring by still leaving a lot of skin exposed. She could wear something else that left a lot more exposed such as her denim overalls that only came up to the top of her breasts with the sides and back open. Gretchen knew Sofie kept said outfit but discouraged the younger girl from wearing it where her father might see her. A silly grin spread over her face, not that I’d be wearing either for very long once I get to the lake!

She turned around slowly while checking herself out. She had dark blonde hair that fell to her shoulders, light brown eyes, and a very trim, athletic build and she stood at 1.73 meters. Her arms, legs and flat stomach had very toned muscles from regular farm work under heavy gravity. She squeezed her breasts gently, proud of how they filled her palms. Even she had to admit that her breasts and butt were her best features. Her face would be called pretty by anyone but not quite what one would call traditionally beautiful. The lines on her face were just a little too sharp to be called beautiful. Even so, she’d heard more than one male classmate whisper “Damn” as she walked past during school. Her school’s uniform certainly helped with that; it being a white button-down shirt under a solid khaki blazer with the school’s coat of arms emblazoned on the left breast. The rest was a black skirt that came to about mid-thigh and knee-high white socks and black shoes.

Reaching for her dresser she pulled a necklace chain off the top and put it around her neck. On the end of the chain was a Saint Boniface medallion, the patron saint of Germany. She looked again and nodded to herself. Now the outfit was complete.

She went down the central stairs in the main foyer, passing Gretchen as she headed for the kitchen. Gretchen gave her a look at seeing the silly smile plastered on the teen’s face and the outfit she wore. The housekeeper was probably one of the reasons why she was even going to the lake to begin with. She was on Sofie’s side countless times, helping to get some of her father’s stricter rules relaxed. More often than not it didn’t work but Sofie was glad to have somebody going to bat for her.

Sofie could remember the verbal sparring match that she had with her father over that her wanting to go to college on Earth. It got rather ugly with the girl about to trot out some very colorful English and German before the older woman stepped in as a voice of reason. It was as if she knew when Sofie was ready to blow up and say something… unfortunate, which was putting it mildly. After she got the two calmed down the woman asked why they were arguing. Her father wanted her to stay on New Germany, to go to a local college from which she could commute every day from home to class whereas Sofie wanted to go back to Earth.

Gretchen then told the two of them to calm down again. She started to explain to Kurt why Sofie wanted to leave the planet. It was something that the older woman and the teen discussed on multiple occasions but Sofie could never explain it to her father. She was always too frustrated and angry to use any of her carefully crafted arguments. Once the older woman was done the two women saw her father finally relent and not only give his permission but his blessings as well; although it came with a condition. Sofie was to return on long breaks from school such as summer break and she was to spend shorter breaks with family still back on Earth whenever possible. She wasn’t going to get a better deal than that. Sofie agreed saying that she would spend the time with her aunt Heidi, her mother’s sister in Hamburg.

He warned her that she didn’t know how Earthers felt about “Colonials.” It wouldn’t matter that she was born on Earth; she lived long enough on New Germany to have the title stick. Earthers tended to look down their noses at people from the Colonies, especially the ones from the Fringe Worlds. Some people on Earth viewed their Colonial cousins as backwater, undereducated, neo-barbarians who should be glad that the Human Federation considered them a part of itself. Her father knew that and he still moved to New Germany in order to start a new life for his family.

The older woman looked her over. “Just be safe. You are wearing something under that, right?” Sofie’s slight blush was enough to tell Gretchen everything. Letting out an exasperated breath directed at the youth on the planet she said with a sudden grin, “I’d get going before your father sees you and asks the same thing. If you need to get in the house discreetly later on just com me and I’ll make sure you can sneak past your father.”

“Thank you,” Sofie replied.

“Oh, don’t thank me yet.”

As she was leaving she saw her father and the fieldworkers look up from the machinery to wave. She waved back before heading down the drive to the main road. It was only a couple minutes to Cadbury, the local village where she went to school and spent a good deal of her free time. The village was only a few square kilometers across and the downtown area consisted of a few shops, a diner, a subspace com center, a post office and a beer hall. The school buildings were off the main road, about two blocks over. The village boasted perhaps a thousand people and most knew her and her father. A few of them waved while she was stopped at one of the three or four stoplights the village maintained. She returned those waves before heading for the motorway.

The motorway was just a wide paved road paralleling the hover train tracks into the village. Sofie floored the accelerator, shifting gears as needed, thankful that the clutch was well cared for. While pushing the pedal to the metal she felt a familiar thrill rise in her that only came when she was flying the airplane that her and her father finished last year. It took her father almost twelve years to build the plane but it was his pride and joy.

Sofie passed a Human Federation Army base and one or two hamlets on the way to the lake. The hamlets were no more than wide spots in the road and not very wide at that. They would disappear if it weren’t for the hover train that passed through them or the army base between them. Even Cadbury depended on the hover train and the soldiers to keep it afloat.

Open fields gave way to a stunningly wide lake in front of her. The motorway continued up and over a bridge across the lake but except for that there was nothing but nearly pristine shoreline to her left and right. She drove the truck off the motorway and down the shore about three klicks. Close to the lake’s edge other cars and trucks were parked on the grass. She quickly shed her clothes before getting out of the car. Many of her classmates had a piece near them but none were as classical as her M1 Garand.

Clara and Daniela came up to her to catch her in a tight embrace. Like Sofie they were naked too. More than a few guys looked in their direction but the three paid them no mind. Almost all of the forty guys and thirty eight girls, nearly their entire class, were there walking around naked, so there was plenty for those guys to look at. Only four girls and three guys wore anything. Any stouthearted conservative from some other, less “forward thinking” planet would’ve had a heart attack at seeing so many naked people hanging out on the beach, but on Issus it was commonplace. From what she heard a majority of women on Earth and Sirius went to the beaches naked or topless. She didn’t know about the guys there, but here it was the way it was.

With so many naked teenagers around those same conservatives would think something else was going on besides a graduation party. But they’d be wrong. Sure, three or four couples might take off to the wood line or the small island at the center of the lake to have sex. But otherwise this was going to be a civilized, almost genteel party, just without clothes, not an orgy.

Clara led her over to the lake’s edge where a long table with food was set up on it. There she made a plate of bratwurst, sauerkraut, cabbage, and mashed potatoes. Daniela handed her a cup of something and said, “Have a snort of this.”

This was some highly potent liquor of a sort that Sofie never had before. The one swig alone was enough to send her into a coughing fit. Her friends stared at her, their mouths all but hanging open. Sofie shook her head and eyed the cup as if it were a serpent ready to strike. “What is this?!” she asked a little louder than she meant to.

“Damn girl,” Clara said after a moment. “I never thought I’d see someone take moonshine quite that fast.”

“Moonshine?” Sofie asked and looked at the cup again.

“Yeah, I mean, I know it’s nothing like what my father can make,” Daniela responded with shrug. “Dad makes the good stuff. My brother made it when dad wasn’t around. All he told me about it was to be careful with the stuff.”

“I can see why,” Sofie answered while taking a more cautious sip. The stuff was rotgut and it felt like a bomb going off in her stomach. A few mugs of that and you wouldn’t see straight. “I haven’t told you two the good news yet!”

“What’s that?” her friends asked.

“I’m headed to Earth!”

The other two looked at each other before smiling. “That’s great news! We’ll be right there with you,” Clara announced.

“You are?”

Daniela grinned at Sofie. “Yeah, us Colonials have to stick together right?”

“Damn straight,” Sofie answered. “At least my dad won’t feel like I’m going by myself.”

“That’s the idea,” Clara said while patting her on the shoulder. “But for now, let’s eat, drink, and be merry!” To add emphasis to her words she gestured to the food, beer, and liquor spread out on tables everywhere.

Christina Crow awoke slowly to find the first rays of dawn pouring in through her bedroom window of her three-hundred-and-sixty-first story apartment. She wasn’t sure if it was the light that had woken her up or the rhythmic vibration coming from just beside her head.

She opened her eyes to find Sparky staring at her with his green eyes. The cream and red Maine Coon’s purrs doubled as he mewed softly at her then proceeded to nuzzle her cheek. Smiling at her cat Christina reached up to rub between the cat’s ears and his purrs increased again. She moved her covers back and the cat took that as a sign to get down off the bed. He hopped onto the floor and mewed up at her. It’d taken awhile and Sparky had tumbled off her bed many times until he learned that he had to get down when she moved the covers.

Sparky mewed again, prompting Christina to look at him again. He sat back on his haunches and mewed yet again. Christina got up from the bed, stooped down to gently pick the cat up, and looking him in the eye asked “Are you hungry?”

The cat meowed at her. Christina chuckled and moved to cradle the cat in her arms. Going into the kitchen, she set the cat on the floor and reached for the cupboard where the cat food was kept. She put the can in the automatic can opener while she reached for the cat’s dish. She had her motions timed perfectly and had one compartment filled with filtered water before the can was open.

Setting the bowl down on the floor for Sparky she went into the living room. Before sitting down she went up to the window and looked out over New York City. The sprawling megacity loomed out in front of her. Everywhere she looked there were skyscrapers reaching upwards, some shorter than her own, some up to four-hundred stories tall. Everywhere she looked sunlight danced off the buildings of concrete, steel, and glass. Between every building, at regular intervals of every hundred floors were walkways that acted as “streets” between the buildings. Gardens, lawns, trees, and shrubs added color to the city as well as worked to keep the air clean. Picking up the datapad from the end table, she powered it on; she immediately went for the news section.

News about the ACF victory at Mendus was already spreading across the Internet. Apparently the fleet was forced to pull out of the system but not before the ACF mauled them badly. The loss of the mines and the shipyards there dealt a serious blow to the Human Federation in addition to the ships lost.

It also just happened to be Election Day in the Human Federation. Ever since humanity went to the stars they took democracy with them. Distances in space along with the limitations of even faster than light communications made elections interesting to say the least. Back when humanity was confined to the Earth and her moon elections were easily done. Going out to Mars put paid to that ease. Going out into interstellar space made things worse until jump gates and FTL subspace communications were invented.

On the front of the New York Times website was a huge endorsement for President Mark Adams, the incumbent Liberal-Democrat president. Christina supposed it was unfair that the biggest newspaper in the Human Federation would endorse him so openly but they’d made their stance clear months ago. Christina wished him all the luck in the universe, seeing as how civil war broke out during the fourth year of his administration. Apparently the New York Times didn’t care about that, endorsing him over the Conservative candidate running for office, Bradley Fulton, and the Labour Party candidate, Alison Turner.

Christina read the article and nodded approvingly. At the bottom of the page was a link to another page that listed the candidates and their stances on the issues. This was how election coverage should be done. The issues and what the candidates said they’d do were important. In her time Christina saw some ugly smear campaigns that passed for election campaigns. She was glad the presidential candidates put that behind them and swore to an issue-only campaign. It must’ve ticked off their campaign workers but the president swore that he didn’t want the election to be tainted by dirty politics, at least not by the candidates themselves. That isn’t to say that it didn’t happen with independent media, social networks, or special interest groups.

Christina set her datapad down as she got up to check on her cat. Sparky was already finished eating and was busy cleaning his whiskers. He caught her looking at her and mewed at her. Christina smiled and headed for the bathroom. The cat tried to follow her in but she closed the door before Sparky could enter.

She showered quickly, she had places to be after all. Picking up her nightgown she went to her bedroom with Sparky in tow. She dressed quickly and went back into the kitchen to make sure her cat would have enough food and water for the day. With her being out of the place for a long time, she wanted to make sure he’d be okay. She asked a friend to come in and check on him but she wanted to make sure all the bases were covered.

The cat followed her to the door where she bent down to pet him. He mewed at her as she opened the door but made no move to follow her. Sparky knew enough that he wasn’t welcome in the hallway of the apartment building. After locking the door she headed for the express elevator that’d take her down to the ground floor where her car was parked. The lift moved swiftly and silently and she had it all to herself. After exiting the lift she opened her mouth to pop her ears and walked through lobby to the parking garage.

Once out onto the street she made her way towards the city’s financial district. She had to stop at several stoplights along the way and had to slow down in the middle of an already busy morning rush hour. All day, every day the megacity was teeming with activity and the city never truly slept. There was always something going on, people were always coming and going somewhere or another.

Somewhere between her apartment and her office she stopped off at another tower. In the ground floor lobby there was a large hall that was being used as a polling place. She walked up to a long table where election workers were busy registering voters. She gave her name and address and was directed to a polling machine. To help prevent voter fraud by hackers, each of the machines was directly linked to the central database at the front desk via wired LAN. Christina went up to one and placed her votes for president, vice president, senators, representatives and judges (all of them Labour Party) along with a few of the local issues on the ballot. Finished she hit the ‘submit’ button and strode toward the door of the hall.

It was a short drive to her office tower. Once there she stopped off at a restaurant on the eightieth floor. Alfred’s Diner had the best corned beef hash and eggs she ever had. Nobody else in NYC compared to them. She got coffee, the aforementioned hash, two eggs poached to the firmer side, redskin potato home fries and toast. She looked up and caught a glimpse of the national HFBC channel doing a live broadcast of the election results coming in from Earth, Luna, the space colonies at the Lagrange points and Mars. Already early exit polls showed that President Mark Adams had a narrow margin over the Conservative and Labour opponents. The third parties were already grabbing votes but not nearly enough to cause a threat to the three major candidates.

Turning to another television screen Christina could see the local HFBC channel reporting returns on the local issues and candidates for mayor, city council persons, local judges, county coroner, among other positions. It would be like this all day long and even into the next day as returns from outside the Sol System started coming in. In fact, the winner of the presidential race wouldn’t be announced until two days from then when the returns from every colony world, outpost and space habitat came in; not to mention all the ones from the armed service aboard ship.

Christina paid her bill and left the restaurant with a wave to the owner and headed for the lifts that would take her up to her office on the two-hundred-forty-third floor. Coming out of the lift she was greeted by a brightly colored hallway along which many small offices were. Her office was farther down the hall and was one of the larger offices in the entire building. There was a name placard on a wood paneled door set into the wall only a few steps in front of her. On it read:

“Office of Christina Crow.

Human Federation Senate.
Earth, 4th District.
Labour Party.”

Christina smiled at the placard and strode forward. The door opened and she found herself in the center of a small office complex. Desks covered almost every available inch of floor space and even at this early hour her personal secretary was already there along with several of her staff members. They all looked up when she entered the outer office. They nodded to her in greeting while her personal secretary, a younger woman by the name of Katherine Townsend, came up to her with a datapad. On it were the early returns on her reelection campaign. Christina gave the numbers a quick look and saw an already substantial lead in her favor. With a word of thanks she went over to the office’s water cooler and coffee maker. Grabbing a fresh cup of coffee she sat down with her staff to watch the returns come in.

Normally she’d be in her home town of Toronto, Canada to watch the returns but after six years in New York City she’d come to think of the place as home. Her own office was more than sufficient to do what she needed to do today. As well as being able to see the returns on her own race she could actively watch the returns for three other senators from Earth as well as the presidential race.

Time crawled by very slowly for her and her staff that morning. At some time near noon two men from Alfred’s Diner brought up party trays full of lunchmeats, cheeses, breads, crackers, mayonnaise and spicy and sweet mustards. Christina looked at the two and recognized Alfred himself. When one of her campaign staff tried to hand over a credit card to pay for it Alfred himself shook his head and said “It’s my pleasure to do this.”

“What? What do you mean?” Christina asked.

“Miss Crow, I might not agree with your politics all the time,” Alfred answered. He was a Conservative and wasn’t afraid to let her know it. He smiled at her and said, “But even though I don’t, you and your staff have been some of my most loyal customers. This is the least I can do for such strong supporters. So please, take it and enjoy.”

Christina stepped forward, held out her hand, and shook his. “Thank you Alfred. This was very kind of you.”

“Not a problem at all Miss Crow.” He turned and walked toward the door to her office. Just before he headed out he turned back to her “I’d like to thank you for running such a decent campaign.”

Christina found herself nodding to him in what was almost a bow, thanking him for such praise. He spoke again, this time shocking everyone who heard him, the senator included, saying “You even convinced me to vote for you. Good day.”

After the door closed Christina turned around to her staff. “Well, if I can convince Alfred to vote for me, I must be doing something right!” She chuckled and her staff echoed her before they all helped themselves to sandwiches.

Alfred came back up an hour later with two cases of beer for the office. He charged them for those. After he left Christina looked at the numbers coming in and grimaced. The race between her and her Conservative opposite number, a man by the name of Nathan Maxwell, was getting closer. The Liberal-Democrat candidate in her district, a nonentity by the name of Gordon Ventor, was hardly a threat to either of them. The presidential race wasn’t looking much better, with Fulton ahead of Adams and Turner by a slim margin. Things didn’t get much better for her campaign as the day progressed. Her secretary brought her a bottle of Samuel Adams Oktoberfest®. Christina raised the bottle to her lips and sipped, relishing the ale.

She was biting her nails near the time the polls for her senatorial district was about to close. The polls showed that she enjoyed a very slim margin. At this point any shift either way could have her win or lose. Her entire staff was nervous as they took phone calls and updated the numbers. Finally at ten o’clock sharp the polls closed and everyone in the office held their breath as the final returns came in.

The office erupted in cheers as the final numbers were posted. Christina looked up and saw that she’d beaten her opposite number by a vote of sixty percent. Ventor took less than five percent of the vote. The phone on her secretary’s desk rang and Katherine picked it up while waving at everyone to lower their voices. She covered the mouthpiece and said “Madam Senator, Nathan Maxwell is on the line for you.”

“Thank you,” she said and took the handset from her secretary. She held an index finger up to her lips to tell her people to keep it down. “Hello Mister Maxwell.”

“Hello Miss Crow. Congratulations on a well fought campaign.”

“Congratulations to you as well Nathan. You had me worried a couple times today,” she admitted.

“As you did for me as well. However, seeing the results I’ve called to concede the race. Good luck in the next six years.”

“Thank you. Good luck to you too.” After farewells were exchanged she set the phone down in its cradle. She looked up into the expectant faces of her staff. “Mister Maxwell has conceded!” she announced with a victorious smile. The entire office erupted in cheers again. Somebody pressed a glass full of champagne into her hand. Christina raised it up and when everyone had a glass she said, “To victory!” Everyone nodded and drank.