Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other. ~Oscar Ameringer
Politicians and diapers should be changed frequently and all for the same reason. - José Maria de Eça de Queiroz
Chris said, "Okay, if we're gonna go with an Emperor kind of schmuck, instead of a President-For-Life kind of schmuck, what kind of a guy would he be?"
"The fucker's gotta be a man of the mother fuckin' people," said Karl The Biker, who was the president of a local outlaw motorcycle club and a frustrated poet.
I said to Chris, "Let's make a note, here. No cursing in Sten, except with maybe some curses we make up."
"I fuckin' agree," said Karl The Biker. "We gotta get your general fuckin' audience. No fuckin' cursing allowed."
Chris sighed. "Karl," he said, "the only 'We' around here when it comes to writing the Sten series, is the me and Allan 'We.' You're just here because you brought the beer."
This was more than true. Chris and I had been laboring hard to build the characters that would populate the Sten series and then we heard the distinctive thunder of a fat-bobbed Harley outside and then Karl had come knocking at the door toting a case of cold beer.
"Hey, guys," he said, "I gotta get away from those ignorant fucks at the Club House for a couple hours. Thought I'd come bug you fucks for awhile."
Chris and I eyed each other. This was an interruption, to be sure. But Karl had been having problems with his warring biker/poet nature and was seeing a psychiatrist. Two facts that his Brothers Of The Road would not have appreciated knowing.
In short, we felt sorry for him. Also…
"He did bring beer," Chris said. "And we're just about out."
So, we welcomed him to our brain-storming session, and as it turned out he made some excellent contributions.
Karl did not take offense at Chris' admonishment. "Sure, sure," he said. "I just got interested. Carried away, like. Not a lot I don't fuckin' know about leadership - being one myself." He drained his beer, popped another and added, "But you two mother fuckers are the artists. You outrank me."
I said, "Back to the Emperor. I agree with Karl that he has to be a man of the people. But not a made up one. He has to be the real deal."
"Not like that fuckin' peanut farmer we got for president," Karl came in. "Turns out that was all bullshit. He doesn't get his fuckin' hands dirty. He just buys and sells peanuts. Inherited the business from his old man." Karl snorted. "What a wimp!"
Chris said, "Even better - what if we build in some street smarts? Literally. Make him a gutter snipe. If somebody hadn't stepped in, he'd end up a criminal, instead of Emperor."
"I like that," Karl said. "I was a trailer park punk. But, fuckin' look at me now!"
We didn't look, but drank more beer instead.
Sight, sounds and smells from my CIA brat past jumped up and I said, "Let's put it some place really exotic. Like old Hong Kong, but in America."
"Fuckin' A," Karl said. "I fuckin' love that. I was in Hong Kong when I was in the Merchant Marines. The whole harbor was so packed with fuckin' house boats you could fuckin' walk from one fuckin' end to the other without gettin' your fuckin' feet wet."
"Yeah, but where would we get a blast-from-the-past Hong Kong in America?" Chris said. "I mean, I think the Emp's definitely gotta start out in America. Or, something like America. But like a couple of centuries from now."
I said, "How about Hawaii?"
"Fuckin' A," Karl said….
MAUI, A.D. 2174
THE BOY HURTLED across the sagging plank onto the next hulk, arrowing across its foredeck. He saw the tarred cable anchoring the scow to its brother just in time, and jumped—foot skittering on the gunwale—then he was in the air, the muck and slime of Moaloea Bay below him, sullen tide splashing the polluted water against the black hulls.
He landed, almost falling, and darted around the high-piled scrap on the bow’s deck and flattened.
The boy had taken a new way across the bay, moving through the maze of grounded ships, half-sunk hovercraft, trawlers of the fisher families, and oared houseboats that might have belonged to the rich two generations ago.
He slipped past the tiny junks of the Chinese boat families, unchanged for thousands of years, working steadily toward the ship channel. Across the channel was the far shore and Kahanamoku City.
It was what was in the knapsack that had made him run, and would make him fight.
Books the old man who owned the pierside junkshop had not wanted. One fat book. Two slender. The fat one was very old, had small type, and was called The Thousand Nights and a Night.
He knew nothing of what it was about, but a glance inside promised adventures with strange beings in strange places, with creatures called rocs and djinn.
The second book looked equally impenetrable, but was equally promising: Freedom From Gravity, The Equations and Early Experiments of Lord Archibald McLean.
Perhaps he could understand just how those great landbarges could fill themselves with cargo, and then effortlessly lift into the sky and float over the watery slum of the bay, out past the barriers to where the great torchships berthed.
The last volume was medium-sized: Starchild - Growing Up In Deep Space. The holo of the author inside the front cover made her look a proper dwonk, but what did that matter? She’d at least gotten off this planet, and she looked to be not much older than the boy.
Now they were on this barge. Gleam of violet, gleam of yellow. No. Leong Suk would be shamed.
A thought crossed his mind—a thought far older than the boy’s years. There’s nothing wrong with being ashamed of yourself—if you’re alive to feel that way later.
He’d been seen!
A hand clawed down at him, to drag him up to meet a balled fist or a stick. The boy grabbed the long-abandoned glass vase and slapped it across the stanchion next to him. The glass shattered, and the boy bounded up, whipping the vase like a saber across the face of the older boy.
Another scream, from the boy himself, as the older one fell away, and the boy leapt toward the second of his pursuers.
Again he slashed, and blood spurted from the second one’s arm. Then there were shouts, clattering, and five teenagers ran like a demon of the sea was behind them.
One lay writhing on the barge, hands covering the ruins of what had been a face.
He did not stop his flight until he’d scrambled onto the stern of a just-departing crosschannel towboat. He slumped against its wire railing, panting. He still held the broken vase in one hand. Now it was violet, yellow… and scarlet.
The boy dropped it into the water.
He shook his head. He was not sure where this thought was taking him, but he would return to it later. He had learned something valuable this day.
*** (Adapted from Sten #8 - End Of Empire - by Allan Cole & Chris Bunch) ***
EMPIRE DAY 2012 - A COMMEMORATIVE EDITION