Being awakened in the middle of the night never brings good news.
This was no exception.
Worse, it woke Cass up.
Of course, waking Cass isn’t generally a bad thing. In fact, it’s usually a most excellent thing! And, in truth, it ended up being a good thing here, too, because Cass always thinks more clearly than I do.
But we had no idea what sort of a pile of dung we had just stepped in.
Now. Lots of news!
First, A Quiet Revolution is now available on AUDIOBOOK! Pick up your copy today with this button:
Second, Triumph’s Ashes is in PRE-ORDER! Find out how the Artemis War ended. (Yes, past tense; it’s my past, dammit!) Click this button to order:
Third, if you’re tired of waiting around for the Next Chapter, click on ANY IMAGE to purchase the book today. Or you can click this button to order:
That’s it from here! Enjoy the chapter!
At least Mac had the good sense to pass a message through Minerva instead of comming me directly, Kendra thought blearily as she struggled up from sleep.
Did she tell you why she needed to see me at… She paused her message to Minerva to check her chrono. Oh four thirteen?
No, Admiral, she did not, Minerva answered.
Grumbling, Kendra eased out of bed, grabbed a short robe, and slipped from their personal quarters into her office.
“Coffee, Jamaica Blue Mountain, black,” she said to the replicator. It hummed and produced a steaming mug, which she picked up and sipped before settling into her chair.
It was only a few minutes before her door chime sounded and Mac entered, looking stricken.
Kendra saw Mac’s face and changed what she was going to say. “Mac, what’s wrong?”
By way of answer, Mac said, “Minerva, give me the feed I was following.”
The monitor lit to one of the NewsChans. A vacant-looking anchor sat, staring outward. It took Kendra a moment to register the chyron crawling at the bottom of the screen, or recognize the picture projected behind her.
“What the frak? Minerva, volume!”
“…intentional deception, or ignorance? We asked our legal expert, Professor Nina Pillsbury of the Yale School of Law, to help us understand. Professor Pillsbury?” The voice was bubbly with a pronounced Oxford English accent.
The screen split, showing a severe-looking brunette in a dark business suit. “Thank you for having me. In the simplest view, ignorance of the law is no excuse for unlawful behavior.” She nodded, as if pleased at the clarity of her point.
The anchor supplied the leading question. “But what has she done that’s illegal?”
“It’s not what she’s done, Chelsea, it’s who she is. She’s an Enhanced Human. Under the laws of the UE, and most of the unaffiliated nations, Enhanced Humans cannot own property or enter into contracts of any kind.”
“Isn’t that barbaric?” Chelsea seemed to recoil at the thought. “All humans have the right to have possessions, don’t they? Personal items at least? Isn’t that part of the UE Charter?”
Pillsbury acknowledged the point. “They do, Chelsea, but that only applies to humans. Enhanced Humans are specifically excluded.”
“And what remedies does the law have?”
“She can certainly be stripped of her property. Her money, probably, if it was acquired through contracts which she isn’t legally empowered to enter. Citizenship, possibly, though that would be more difficult. The UE Court of Justice will almost certainly end up getting involved.”
Chelsea beamed at the cameras. “Thank you, Professor Pillsbury, for that enlightening explanation.”
“Any time, Chelsea,” the Professor replied before her image vanished, replaced by Kendra’s face.
“To repeat our top story. Global News has received information that implies that the former sensie actress, Kendra Foster-Briggs, who now styles herself Admiral Kendra Cassidy, is an Enhanced Human, created in a genetic laboratory before such abominations were outlawed. We will continue to update you as more information becomes available.” Chelsea turned on her sunniest smile. “Now, let’s send it over…”
Kendra cut off the display. “What the hell is going on?”
“I was asleep, just like you, I didn’t want to wake you, but I have Harpo looking out for all of our names in the public net, it’s the best way to keep track of what people are thinking and saying, and it’s really fascinating where the trails can lead, but tonight he picked up this story breaking about you, and at first it didn’t seem to be much, just showing up on some of those conspiracy theory places, but then it started going mainstream, and that’s when he woke me up, and we traced it and it’s like someone’s flooding the planetary network with all this information, just throwing it out there, and there’s a bunch of people who are trying to track it down and verify it now, but once it made the NewsChans I thought you ought to see it.”
“It’s a lie,” Kendra said flatly. “I was adopted, I had a foster mother, but I’m not some sort of creation.”
“Admiral,” Minerva said, and Kendra would have sworn she heard hesitation.
“I think that Harpo, Diana, and I should see if we can get some more definite information.”
“Go ahead. You’re not going to find anything, though. It’s all bull.”
“Yes, Admiral.” The indefinable presence that Minerva brought when she was actively listening disappeared.
“Coffee, Mac?” offered Kendra. “I don’t know how long this will take to squash.”
“Oh, god, yes, I mean, I’m a night owl, I know that, it kinda drives Teddy nuts, but he’s used to it now, but even for me this is really late, or maybe it’s really early, I never – oh, thanks,” finished Mac as Kendra put a mug of coffee in front of her.
“Where else is this?” asked Kendra, sitting down again.
“It’s not really widespread yet, it looks like it started hitting the net about midnight Greenwich time, and it’s been building since then, but even so it’s not the lead story, it’s kinda buried because there hasn’t been any confirmation, just a really suggestive rumor.”
“Midnight Greenwich? Hmm.” Kendra leaned back, staring at the ceiling. “Let’s assume that whoever dumped this wanted the maximum impact. Dropping documents at midnight has a long and storied history, so whoever did this probably also runs on Greenwich time, since they probably wouldn’t bother converting to some other zone.”
She frowned. “Unless they’re more clever than I think. No, best not to borrow trouble. Let’s see. We run on Greenwich minus seven, since that’s the zone for Los Alamos. HLC is Greenwich minus six.”
“Why would anyone at HLC want to do this?” asked Mac. “I mean, you’re the boss, well, you and Cass, and without you they wouldn’t be so busy, and –”
“No, I don’t think it was anyone at HLC. Timing, Mac, timing.”
“What about Whatshisname, Lynch, at the UE?”
“I don’t think so. He doesn’t like us, but he also wants to take the Union down and, much as he hates it, he can’t without our help.”
Further speculation was cut off by Minerva’s voice.
“Admiral, we have information to add.” The AI sounded somber.
“Go ahead, Minna.”
“The documents in question, and there are a considerable number, were leaked from the Artemis Colony Ministry of Intelligence.”
“That makes sense!” Kendra exclaimed. “We were just talking about the time it all dropped. I had forgotten that Artemis is on Greenwich time, and they certainly hate me enough to try to discredit us any way they can. Good work.”
“Admiral, there’s more.”
“Oh? Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“Admiral,” Minna started, and then, unlikely as it was for an AI, she hesitated.
“The documents are genuine. That is to say, the information they provide is verified within the sources identified in the release.”
“That can’t be,” Kendra said. “It just can’t!”
“We have checked at the sources, Admiral. The information is accurate.”
Kendra took several breaths in an attempt to calm herself.
“Lay it out for me. Is what that professor said correct?”
“In some respects, yes, Admiral. It is not as simple as she laid it out, however. While she is correct in stating that Enhanced Humans were forbidden from owning property or entering into contracts, our interpretation of the laws suggests that it would not apply to you.”
“Why not? If I’m an Enhanced Human, and you say I am, then how do the laws not apply?”
“Hon? Why are you awake? Oh, hi, Mac, what are you doing here?” Cass entered the office, brushing hair from her eyes, dressed in the same sort of short robe as Kendra.
“According to Minna, I’m an Enhanced Human and have done all sorts of illegal shit,” said Kendra bitterly.
“Minna, you explain.”
“Good morning, Commander. What the Admiral said is not entirely accurate, but it does summarize the situation. The Artemesian Ministry of Intelligence has recovered and released documents which state the Admiral is in fact an Enhanced Human.”
Before Minerva finished speaking Cass was around the desk and wrapping Kendra in her arms.
“What does it mean?” she said, still clinging to Kendra.
“Minna was about to explain the complexities when you came in,” said Mac.
“Then what are you waiting for?” Cass finally released Kendra.
“Yes, Commander. The situation is complex. While the records laid out connect the Admiral to an Enhanced Human zygote created by the Mendel Genetics Laboratory in 2075, the circumstances warrant examination. Are you familiar with the Green Wars?”
The apparent non sequitur didn’t faze Cass. “No more than what I learned in school.”
“The treaty that ended the Green Wars forbade the creation of any more Enhanced Humans; that is, no more laboratory selected and designed zygotes would be produced. In addition, all currently-living Enhanced Humans were granted legal status and allowed to merge with society as best they could.”
“But Kendra was born in 2080; tomorrow, in fact.”
“That is correct, Commander. The treaty also demanded that all unquickened zygotes be brought to term as quickly as possible and raised with no knowledge of their past. The Admiral was one such zygote.”
“So she was created as Enhanced but never knew it; how does that change anything?”
“The Enhanced Humans born under this codicil were individually recognized as human, with the commensurate legal standing. Kendra was not so recognized.”
“Don’t grunt, hon,” said Cass. “Okay, Minerva, you’ve lost me.”
“Kendra was never identified as an Enhanced Human due to a rather bizarre set of circumstances. When she was fostered, and then adopted, there were no records to contradict the assumption that she was human, as her host mother’s identity was unknown.” Minerva paused. “I will download the timeline to your implants.”
In an instant, the entire chain of events was available to them, and they spent some moments examining the events around Kendra’s birth, fostering, and adoption.
“That all fits,” Kendra eventually said. “I knew I had a host mother, and that my foster family adopted me, and that nobody seemed to know anything else beyond that. Even when I had my DNA tested for matches, nothing closer than about a fifth cousin ever popped up.”
“Because your DNA was taken from hundreds of donors,” supplied Cass. “But why didn’t the biometrics pick up on the enhancements?”
“Because there is no way an Enhanced Human can be distinguished from an unenhanced human without the relevant paper trail,” answered Minerva.
“That still doesn’t explain why there are any legal problems,” insisted Kendra. “According to you, the kids born under this treaty were given official human status.”
“Oh, I get it!” exclaimed Mac. “See, it’s all in the details, because the kids all had to be individually identified and given status, and that was easy, because the records were sent from the lab to the appropriate government and it was just a matter of the chief executive signing off on the form, since you were born in the Imperium the paperwork should have gone there, but your mother was a citizen of Big Sky and had registered with a Big Sky company, so the Big Sky chief executive held all the data, and when no birth record for you was ever forwarded to their office the paperwork was probably destroyed, so you never officially got your status!”
“That is correct,” confirmed Minerva. “Even though you are covered by the treaty codicil, the final confirmation of your humanity was never done. Therefore, in the eyes of the law, you are an Enhanced Human and subject to all the punitive laws and regulations which applied. I am still investigating the relevant laws and executive orders, but it will take me some time,” she added.
“Oh, shit,” muttered Cass. “Wedding? Inheritance?”
“Your conclusion is correct, Commander. Her wedding to you may not have any legal standing, nor her wedding to the late Mr. James, nor her subsequent inheritance.”
“Oh, shit,” Kendra added. “And all the deals I made…”
“Could be interpreted as null and void,” completed Cass. “Minerva, you said Artemis was behind this?”
“Obviously, they want to cripple the Federation by throwing its legitimacy into doubt. I don’t know enough about law to have a reasonable opinion, but I think it’s time we call in some markers.”
“Like what?” asked Mac.
By way of answering, Cass said, “Minerva, connect me to Director Hartman.”