Virus Episode Four

Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three

Friday, AC April 7

Godfrey saw Mason, Liam, April, and Bailey coming toward his shop from the transit. Her AI dog, Bailey, trotted next to her, causing some disquiet from the people they passed. Godfrey had thought that three months would have been enough time for the station’s inhabitants to get used to the dog. On the other hand, could one ever get used to a creature who so closely resembled the things that had murdered so many?

“Hi, Mr. Godfrey,” April said, bouncing on the soles of her feet.

“Hey, Little Bit,” Godfrey said. “Your mom make it off the station alright?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” April said, “She didn’t go on a normal ship though. She was in a stretch bird.”

“Stealth bird,” Mason corrected, while Liam snickered. “She and the IHP agents left in a stealth bird, April.”

“Wow,” Godfrey said, “wish I’d seen that.”

“April, stop bouncing,” Mason said, “You’re getting Bailey all worked up.”

“At least he can’t have an accident on the floor,” Godfrey chuckled.

Mason gave him a hard stare. “Lubricant,” he said, “The dog has to drink lubricant. When it’s used up the byproducts have to come out. It has a noxious burned rubber smell and he will have an accident if he’s worked up.”

“Somehow that makes me like him more,” Godfrey said, “Anyway, you guys ready for the announcement?”

“Yes,” April said. “I’m really excited. My teacher, she said that this was a day that we should always remember. That we made a big change in the government.”

“She’s right,” Godfrey said. He sent the scrubbers back to their holders before coming out of the stall and closing the shutter in front. A blinking sign on the front said, “Closed For Announcement.”

They went back to the transit station to wait for Ki. They had to let several trains by before they spotted her, sitting against the window. She waived when she saw Godfrey, but her smile faltered a little when she spotted the others. Still, she seemed happy enough when they boarded the train.

After giving him a kiss, she said, “Hello Liam, Mason, April. I didn’t know you were coming down with us. Where’s Sennett?”

“She’s off station for about a week,” Godfrey said, “I told you that last night. It’s why she called me, remember?”

“Mmm, no. Not sure you did say that,” Ki said, “but it doesn’t matter.”

It did matter, at least to Godfrey. Ki had been pissed that Sennett had called. But the last thing he wanted was to start fighting in front of the whole of the crowded train.

Ki turned to April. “Do you know what’s going to happen at the Announcement?” she asked.

“Sort of,” April said. “Mommy said that Marshal Howard and Marshal Joy need to let people elect them again. She said that they’re going to go up on a stage and ask if anyone else wants to be marshal of the Foundation or Currant Party. And then, if no one else wants to be, then they’re the marshals for four years.”

“That’s right,” Ki said, “and if someone else wants to run, then they’ll give everyone thirty days to decide who they want to be marshal of each party.”

“No one’s going to oppose them,” Liam said, “Not right now. Everyone’s scared, and they trust Joy and Howard to keep them safe.”

“Is being marshal hard?” Ki asked.

Godfrey’s thoughts went to Howard, the glow of a transit track and the sound of people screaming. He thought of Joy, ordering the ship of the AI dogs blown to pieces. “It should be hard,” he said.

They got off of the transit at Level One, joining the crowd of people headed in the same direction. “Some turn out,” Godfrey said.

“No kidding,” Mason said, lifting April up onto his shoulders, “Everyone at school is losing their minds. We changed our entire government, and now we’re voting for our leaders for the first time.”

April was getting some attention from the crowd. Godfrey noticed several people turn to their neighbors to whisper, giving her sidelong looks.

Mason must have noticed as well, because he muttered, “Wish people would stop staring.”

“They’re going to,” Godfrey said, “April’s the first child born from two humanoid races. She’s remarkable.”

“What we have to do is look past the people who are curious, and look for the ones who are angry,” Liam said. His eyes scanned the crowd, one hand hovering near his pocket. Godfrey was sure that, house arrest or not, he was carrying something. Probably something illegal.

“Aren’t you being a little dramatic?” Ki asked, “No one’s angry about April.”

“The Core is,” Liam said, “and it’s naive to think they’re the only ones.”

“Hey, look at that,” Godfrey said, hoping to distract the two.

He pointed to the grandstand that had been built in the center of Level One. The band from the college was there, playing a patriotic tune.

“Mason Montgomery, is that you?” a woman in the crowd asked, “Oh, and is that little April?”

Godfrey and Mason turned to see who had spoken. They didn’t recognize Dr. Oswald, but April did. She tapped her uncle on the shoulder. He ignored her, shifting his shoulders to jostle her. “Sorry, I don’t think we’ve met,” Mason said.

“No, not yet,” the doctor said, holding a hand out to shake. “My name is Dr. Oswald. I’ve only just gotten here a few days ago. But who hasn’t heard of you? Your achievements are well known all over the stations.”

“Oh,” Mason said, “That’s new. Usually, people only hear bad things about me.”

“Like your constant plant murders?” Godfrey asked.

“Accidents happen, when one is conducting scientific experiments. Especially when the scientist is a young man,” the doctor said.

“Ma’am, sorry to interrupt,” Liam said, “but what did you say your name was? Desmond?”

“Oswald,” the doctor said, her smile looking strained.

“That’s what I thought,” Liam said, “April’s mom don’t want you talking to her. I guess that probably means she don’t want you talking to Mason, either.”

“Excuse me, who are you?” Dr. Oswald asked.

“Friend of Sennett’s,” Liam said, glowering at her. “We’ll be moving along now. Have a nice evening.”

He pushed Mason until the younger man started moving. Godfrey and Ki followed after them.

“That seemed unnecessarily aggressive,” Ki said, “She was just talking to Mason.”

“Sennett told me to keep an eye out for that woman,” Liam said. “Said she’s got all these notions about running tests on April.”

“Tests for what?” Ki asked.

“Don’t know,” Liam said, “Don’t really care. Sennett said no, so I say no.”

The screen above the grandstand lit up, showing the stage for people farther back. Marshal Howard Stoat walked on the stage to uproarious applause. His hair was set to perfection, as was his expensive suit. Two silver pins glistened on his lapel. The top one was the station’s symbol, eighty-six stars in a spiral formation. The bottom one was the Current Party symbol, four interlocking circles. He waved happily to the crowd, a big grin on his face.

Marshal Joy Wheatly came out a moment after him. Her dark hair, streaked gray, was braided and coiled on top of her hair. She wore a yellow silk suit, with a graceful smile on her face. The crowd was a bit less exuberant at her appearance but seemed no less happy to see her.

“Hello, everyone!” Howard called, his voice echoing over the comm system. “First of all, we want to thank you all for coming out today. Changing a government, turning it into a democracy ruled by the people and for the people is an awesome and humongous thing to do. We’re going to have to work together, every step of the way.”

“This is important work we’re doing, though,” Joy said. She came to the middle of the stage and clasped her hands behind her back. “To ensure that all of our voices are heard. That we all, every race and creed, get a say.”

“That’s right,” Howard said, “Now, Joy and I think we’re the best people for the job. Well, at least I think I’m the best person for the job.”

Current party members laughed. “I kid, I kid. Joy’s terrific,” Howard said, “But it’s important that you all are behind us.”

“When you voted for us as marshals, that title didn’t matter as much as it does now,” Joy said. “It’s only fair that you decide if you want us to keep the jobs now. Howard, why don’t you go first?”

“Sure, I can do that,” Howard said. He walked to the front of the stage. “So, how about it, kids? I’d like to run again as Marshal for the Current Party. Who else wants to throw their hat in?”

No one spoke up. The crowd was full of excited whispers, but not a single person raised their hand.

“No one, really?” Howard asked. “Alright. Guess I’m it.”

The crowd cheered, Liam and Mason among them. “What’s wrong?” Mason asked, noticing that Godfrey wasn’t joining in. “Don’t you like Howard?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Godfrey said, “he’s not my party leader.”

“Joy will keep him straight,” Ki said, leaning against Godfrey.

“Thank you, thank you,” Howard said, waiving. “I’m truly grateful and humbled by your faith in me. I’ll be taking my oaths of office tomorrow morning, to serve for the next four years.”

“Now,” Joy said, stepping forward, “I believe we Foundation Party members have a decision to make. I haven’t been your marshal for long. I have been honored to hold the position. But in fairness, no one voted for me. I inherited the job when Marshal Saul abstained. I need to give you that opportunity now, maybe more so than Howard does. So, I’m running for Marshal of the Foundation Party. Who else would like to run?”

The crowd apparently didn’t expect anyone to come forward. Some people were already clapping, cheering for Joy.

Above the sounds of the crowd came a voice. “Me! I intend to run!”

How Joy heard him was a mystery. But she must have because she looked over the crowd. “Who is that?” she called. “Wait, everyone. Please, who is that in the back?”

The crowd looked back in the direction Joy was pointing.

There at the back of the crowd was Saul Mai, the former Marshal of the Foundation Party. The last time Godfrey had seen him he was a ruined man, homeless and in disgrace. He looked like he was doing better, dressed in a fine black suit with a fresh haircut.

“I will run,” he said, walking through the crowd as they parted for him. “I was the marshal before the Council took the position from me. Joy’s done a fine job filling in, but it’s time for me to take my position back. I think that in thirty days the people of Station 86 will agree with me.”

Copyright © 2017 by Nicole C. Luttrell

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

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