The Last Governor of Eden
by Leo D. Orionis

Year One: 2140 A.D. (2893 A.U.C.)

It was supposed to be a punishment post. The records were quite clear; the last five Governors here had been given one day to see a planet that was fit to live on, and to begin to imagine how they could help far too many people work their way out of hopeless poverty with far too small a budget and far too little resources. The bad ones got drunk. The good ones issued a flurry of orders which they might have reconsidered—and which were ignored anyway. Drunk or sober, the Earth goons came and got them at the end of the day, packed them back aboard the waiting transport ship, and took them on to somewhere even worse, places with names like Hell and Give Up and Avernus, where the problems were just as bad, but even the air had to be manufactured.

He had been here a week when he discovered this. Either the machine slipped up for once; or he had screwed up so spectacularly that someone had decided he deserved the ultimate punishment, to be awarded a look at a potential paradise and forced to make it work. Or maybe, just maybe (think it softly, and never, ever say it out loud!) they really thought he could do something with this planet.

There were days he thought maybe he could, too. It could break your heart to see the state the people were in; it broke his a hundred times a day, the gods knew, and he could feel his hair turning white; but he kept at it.

 

It had been a fine place once, one of the best. The native life was advanced enough to make good air and clean water and an attractive landscape, but not so advanced that Terrestrial life couldn't root it out and drive it under. You planted a seed, as they used to say in the American west, and jumped back before the plant poked you in the eye. Only here the crops choked the weeds, and the local locusts took a few bites and dropped dead. Mulch and fertilizer, that's what the Earth crops thought of the native life.

Best of all, there were no native sentients, and nothing ever likely to evolve sentience; hardly an animal on the planet as big as a cat, even in the oceans. The Verē themselves must have thought so; deep scan by satellite never found a Monument to instruct future tool users, nor even a rock scratched with the T́uliǹgrai version of "Kilrao was here." So men could claim the world outright, was the upshot, and do what they liked with it.

Eden they called it finally; trite, but better suited for the name than anywhere else men had found. In a galaxy full of alien worlds inhabited by alien races more than ready to defend their own (even if they spent all the rest of their time mourning the departure of the Verē), this was one place men could make a human paradise.

Then the war came, and the gods damn stupid settlers who couldn't keep their promises, and double damn Navy captains who took the human side, right or wrong. Overnight a hundred mournful worlds turned to wrath, put away the flint knives and the clay bowls they'd been making do with, and activated automated last-ditch Verē bases, full of ships and weapons that made Earth stuff look like bath-tub toys and BB guns.

And when the expanding plasma of a dozen desperate battles had redeemed the broken oaths with valor, and a thousand sleepless savants had reverse-engineered enough found and captured Verē tech to equip man's armies and navies with same, the humans and the not-humans met and swore it would never, ever happen again, Now get off our worlds. And be thankful we don't occupy yours.

So the military gritted its teeth over the humiliation of not-quite-losing, and the politicians tried to make it look like the greatest victory ever, and the bureaucrats said, but where are we going to put all the people who had settled on alien worlds?

Oh look, here's a place!

And that's how Eden was ruined the second time.

 

Robert Marius Augustus his parents named him, and if he sometimes joked about coming from a family so poor they couldn't afford a last name, he joked from pride. North American he was by birth, Latin—not Latino, his family spoke Latin, not Spanish—by education, Childe by heritage; of an old family with liberal traditions like scholarship, and public service. His father was a Senator of the North American Union, his grandfather was a retired Colonel in the United Nations Circum-Terra Command, and he was proud of them both.

He hoped they were proud of him, too. It bewildered him, how he'd ended up here, and what he was supposed to do with the place. In theory he had absolute power over the whole world, to bind and to loose, to do and to let be, to command and be obeyed.

What he actually had was an embassy compound from the days when Eden was a semi-autonomous world with a United Nations consulate. For equipment he had a few air cars, a supernetcom and some peripheral netcoms a generation old, an indispensable receiver for the orbital power satellite, and close to a hundred years of paper files. His people were an inbred community of bureaucrats, office workers, technicians, and embassy Marines, all of them born here.

Outside the ceramcrete walls and razor wire that kept the compound from being swarmed under (along with the Marines' rifles and bayonets and their savage readiness to use them), starving dogs sniffed the embassy garbage, then fled in terror from gangs of starving children. The children thought a skinny dog a grand treat—and they didn't always bother to cook it first. Assuming, of course, that every gang of kids remembered how to make fire.

The adults certainly did; when they weren't shooting the city up, they were burning it down. Where they found ammunition was a mystery, until the Marine armorer proudly showed him (during a pointless inspection he tried to avoid) the bullet-casting and reloading equipment he kept in perfect repair. The mystery of what they found to burn, outside the compound walls, was not so easily answered.

In truth he was just another warlord in the blown-up, knocked-down rubble that once had been a city called Gardena. His equipment was a little bit better, his authority a shade less dubious, and every once in a while he got supplies from a passing ship, which the other robber barons plainly thought unfair.

Some of them paid him a call when he didn't disappear overnight, leaving the Attaché in charge. An actual Governor was a sight they had to see, a kind of relic from generations past. The politer chieftains even left their necklaces of human ears at home; but not all of them were so polite as all that.

Perhaps they hoped to storm the place by surprise, and carry off all the fabulous office equipment he had. They were disappointed; he took instruction from the Commandant of his Marines, a young woman with a long scar down the left side of her face, hairline to chin, and admitted them one at a time, with a few guards only, while the Marines stood on alert.

Then they thought to wheedle him, to bribe him with young girls, boys, gold, whatever they thought him most likely to fancy; to threaten him, finally, with their numbers and their permanence. But his great-grandfather had served in Somalia, his great-great-grandfather in Vietnam, and Robert had read Caesar, Livy, and Tacitus in the original Latin, and Macchiavelli in the Italian; their bribes were as futile as their threats.

Rome and Saigon and Mogadishu took him only so far; he was here to stay, and must make something of this place. No occasional effort would get results, no floundering would earn respect. Like Trajan, he had his Dacia, now he must civilize it, and build something that would last.

If he could feed them, they would come for the food, and stay as long as there was more. If they got more only if they learned and worked, then something might be done.

 

But how could he feed a planet when he couldn't even feed himself without resupply from the ships? How many of the warlords and barons out there were former Governors who'd given up, and settled down to make a living by plunder, to hell with everyone else? There had to be a way!

He found it by chance, in the papers from some past Governor's desk, an invitation to a party—immortal gods, they'd had parties once in this place? But it was in the country, not the city.

He flew out to see it, and found it deserted. Too far out to reach by foot, too far away from anyone else's ranch by foot, foot was all anyone had left, unless he were the Governor. Sure, you could reach it from the city, if you packed food and water. But first you had to know it was there.

Fallen down, was his first thought, while the scarred Commandant shook her detachment out in a perimeter, and the technicians disappeared into the infrastructure. But no, the reports told him. The buildings needed work, but they stood; the animals had gone wild, but could be rounded up; the fields were actually better off for having laid fallow for the gods alone knew how long. He could move his headquarters here, use what resources he had to put this in order instead of scraping the alleys of the city, and presently it would start yielding dribs and drabs he could feed people with; and then more than that.

He resolved not to make a gift of the city compound to the warlords, not so much as one stone upon another if he could help it. The thought of having to storm the place to take it back gave him waking nightmares. Besides, he would need every scrap of it at the new place, sooner or later; even the razor wire, and wasn't that going to be fun to wrestle with!

 

"We'll have to do it in stages," the Commandant said at the planning meeting. TIMISOARA, it said on her name tag; Alana, he'd heard another Marine call her. Her eyes were midnight blue, her close-cropped hair even darker than that. He shook his head. "Sorry," he said. "Please continue."

"The most vital stuff has to go in the first loads, before they know anything's happening. The power receiver, the technicians, the supernetcom, enough netcoms to provide reference material on stuff like farming. Some guns for the reservists to use, just in case." By reservists she meant everyone but the Marines; some past Governor had accomplished that much, anyway.

The planning went on. How many loads would it take? What would go in each load? How do we keep the gangs out, once the razor wire is down? How do we disassemble the walls, with the warlords shooting at us? Do we have a bomb big enough to take out the whole compound at once? Eyes turned to him.

"We do not," he said positively. "There is no atomic weapon below the compound. Whether some past Governor started the rumors to keep the warlords in line, or whether they started as wistful thinking, I don't know. I'm glad it's not there. It would be too tempting to pull the plug on the city, and let the countryside sort itself out." There was a brief silence, broken by a startled laugh. Well, then, what about—? He found himself watching Major Timisoara again.

She was the commander of his Marines, which made her his right arm and his bodyguard. That was fine with him; but he needed more than that, and if there was one thing he had learned in this job, it was not to listen to all the reasons why something wouldn't work. Nothing would work, if he stopped and listened to reason; nothing ever would, nothing ever had, and that was how things had gotten into the state they were in. But he was determined that they would work.

"Don't forget to program the satellites with our new location," he said. "We don't want ships to land in the wrong place." He'd debated saying that, fearing to look an overanxious fool. But averted eyes and scribbled notes told him at least some of his planet-born staff had forgotten.

The logistics were very difficult; it was hard to keep the number of trips down with so few cars, yet if they didn't, the warlords would shadow at least the last few trips with their own cars, maybe try some raids in the city and the country at the same time.

"What if they don't have any?" he suggested. "Better yet, what if we had their cars to move our stuff? Surely you know who has every car in the city, Major?"

She nodded. "With a high degree of confidence," she said. "We watch their battles to track their readiness states and assess their abilities, and we keep data on all motorized transport as a matter of course."

"Are they few enough that you can seize them all at once? Are they numerous enough to help with our move? What kind of numbers are we looking at?"

She tapped a query on her omnicom, echoed it and the results to the table display—and his own omnicom, he noted, though he hadn't given her the address. There were more cars than he'd guessed; taking them would bring his transport up to almost two dozen vehicles. If they all had the same carrying capacity as the embassy vans, that would reduce the number of trips to a sixth of what they'd need otherwise.

"We don't need to seize them all at once," she said. "In fact, better if we don't, since we're the only ones who could. We can take a couple of places' cars each night over a week or so, drive them out of the city, eliminate any tracking devices, drive them on to the new place, fix them up, and put in the power receivers for all the cars we used to have… Major Fuentes, anything to add?"

"No, Ma'am," said Elvira Fuentes, her chief of staff. "You do realize we won't be able to get all the cars at every place? And some won't be useable after we take them."

"Speaking plainly," the Governor said harshly, "you mean that sooner or later we'll take losses on these raids—cars shot up coming out, and Marines killed."

"Yes, Sir," said the Latina woman.

"Also," said the Commandant, "some of the cars on this list haven't been seen in a while, and might not run any more."

"Plan to take in fully-charged batteries for any cars that haven't been seen lately, and destroy any transport we can't take out," he said. "I don't want the city warlords to be left with any cars at all."

The silence in the room was profound. It was the Attaché, Ernesto Sotomayor, who said, "You realize that you're talking about acts of war against people who are supposed to be U.N. citizens?"

He nodded. "Yes, Mr. Sotomayor, I do. If I thought they would oblige us, I would ask them for their vehicles. But all it would do is give them warning, if they took me seriously at all."

He looked around the room. "Right or wrong, this is the end of the status quo on this planet. We will seize every vehicle we can, and we will move out of this rubble heap." He turned to the Commandant. "Can do, Major?"

She smiled then, not a grin, but the satisfied expression of a professional given an important job to do. "Can do, Sir," she said.

Only a long time later did he learn that while he had been watching her, she had been watching him. He didn't hear Major Fuentes teasing her, woman to woman, about the Governor's hungry eyes; nor hear her reply to shut the hell up, for God's sake.

 

The theft or destruction of all the cars and vans in the city had started fights all over, but each chieftain assumed he'd lost his vehicles to his usual enemies, and never gave a thought to the irrelevant embassy folk. Some of them perhaps began to wonder, when they met their foes in battle and no cars were used by the other side, either.

The raids had gone better than the Governor had any right to expect. A few cars couldn't be made to run, and so were destroyed. A few more were shot up too badly to use, especially in the last couple of attacks. And yes, some of the Marines died, mostly on those same runs. But the raiders brought their dead out with them, and their identities stayed secret.

The first loads to the new place had been made with embassy vehicles only, at night, before the raids began. They continued during the raids, covered by the need of the gangs to stay home and guard their cars. For as long as possible, the Marines concealed the fact that anything was happening at all.

As long as there were any cars in the city besides theirs, they did without the new ones, which had to be fixed and converted from battery power to broadcast power anyway.

On Bug-Out Day, fifteen cars and vans slid quietly into the city at 0200, and vanished into the U.N. compound. An hour later, fully loaded, they slid back out and took a route out of the city that was not in the direction of the new place. Three round trips were made this way before the city began to wake up. Two more got away clean before the mobs could get organized. The Governor took a look at what was left, consulted with the Major, and ordered only the most heavily armored vans, eight all told, to return for the last trip.

The razor wire turned out to be easy; he'd assumed it to be the metal it looked like. Instead it was memory plastic infused with metal particles and programmed with an encrypted trigger. Major Fuentes touched it with a device from the armory, and it wilted into rope. A squad stripped it from the wall with careless haste while the rest of the Marines laid suppressive fire on the mob. Even so bullets came back like a hailstorm, and two more Marines died right there.

"Go!" shouted Sergeant-Major Lomibao over the helmet omnicoms. "Now now now now!" He slapped each shoulder as they passed him, counting. At the door of the last van out, Major Timisoara did the same. Lomibao hoisted the last troop through, and she threw herself in right behind him. "Get us out of here!" the Governor heard her shout to the driver, from the netcom in the new place where he stood and watched it all.

(He'd wanted to be there. "Not if I have to sit on you!" she'd finally shouted. "Maybe some other time," he'd said, and started to laugh. She'd stomped off. Was it a good sign, that he could make her lose her temper?)

What must have been the last shoulder-mounted missile in the city reached after the fleeing soldiers. He hardly had time to suck in a breath, yet its flight seemed to take forever. The driver of the van jinked hard left and up, then spun down and right and braked hard. The can fell like a rock, and the missile blazed past; and thank the gods that it wasn't Verē or Childe tech, or it wouldn't have missed.

Instead it acquired the last of the other cars and roared in. As the van with the Major in it (and the other Marines, he reminded himself) pulled up short of crashing, another one took the hit and went down in flaming ruin. He was sorry for the driver, but he'd need the Marines more, even objectively, let alone his growing, if one-sided, personal involvement.

Who asked him, breathlessly, "Time?"; UNMC armor was the best, but they'd been thrown around hard. He looked at the time display on the netcom.

"Any moment now," he said. "Ah, there we go."

("Forget blowing the walls," he'd told them. "We can't spare the munitions, and I see no need to spray the mob with shrapnel. What Caesar did at Alesia, we can do here. Besides," he'd grinned, "confidential documents are supposed to be burned.")

Paper burns at a known rate; so does wood. There are variations according to dampness, kinds of wood, rag content of paper, and so forth; but the engineers had tested these particular materials under these specific conditions, while everyone else had worked like dogs and dug like badgers. The supporting timbers burned through on schedule.

With a groan like a giant years frustrated, the walls came down, falling into the tunnels they had dug. A ring of dust and dirt whoomped up, then began to disperse, raining clods and stones, and screening off any more missiles. The Governor met the Commandant's eyes in the screen. "Come on home, Major," he said.

 

"I don't care what you call yourself," the warlord said. "You can call yourself Governor if you like; there's a guy acrost town who calls himself the Mayor; another who calls himself King Rat. What I wanna know is, what are you doin' messin' with my people?"

"I believe you actually mean that, Mr. Moyer," the Governor said to the mustached face on his omnicom. "The 'my people' part, I mean. That's the only reason we're having this conversation. But don't push your luck too far."

"Lissen," said Moyer, "you been on this planet what, a coupla months now? Well I was born here! Maybe I don't speak Latin, but I speak English and Spanish. Those are U.N. languages, and I'm a U.N. citizen."

"I'm glad to hear it," said the Governor. "A lot of the warlords in the city don't speak English or Spanish, and are no more U.N. citizens than cockroaches are. When should we expect you?"

"Hah?" the ferret-face on the screen looked confused. "Expect me for what?"

"Didn't you read one of the posters you're objecting to, Mr. Moyer?"

"I ain't got time to read every piece of crap floatin' around!" the chieftain said—no, this one styled himself Boss—but why was he suddenly so angry—ah.

"Let me save you some time, then," the Governor said. "It invites any person who considers himself a U.N. citizen to join us here, requiring only that he declares himself a citizen, swears to obey the laws of the colony, and renounces obedience to any unlawful authority; especially people who set themselves up with titles not deriving from this office, such as Mayor, King, or Boss."

"In other words," he said quietly, "if they leave that picked-over, shot-up, bombed-out rock pile some call a city, and come here, and will live as people instead of insects, we'll treat them as people. Feed them, to start with. Clothe them. Teach them. Protect them."

"But that's crazy!" Moyer said. "None of the city guys will let that happen. Anyone who tries will be dog meat. Hell, most people here can't read your posters inna first place, and the clan bully boys are tearin' 'em down fast as they find 'em."

"Which is why I'm talking to you," said the Governor, "and any other warlord who has a communications device. This is your notice—we'll soon start making our offer by loudspeaker, and escorting anyone out who wants out. And if anyone gets in our way, tears down our posters, or tries to stop anyone from leaving, we will shoot to kill."

"You're gonna get people killed!" Moyer said.

"Yes, some will die. Some of us, some of the people we're trying to rescue. But a lot of those who fight us will die, too. If I have my way, all of them."

"So when can we expect you and your people, Mr. Moyer?"

"We can't leave here," Moyer protested. "We get out in the open, the West-Enders start shootin' my boys and grabbin' the women; then we try to get home, and the Cannibals have taken over our place while we was gone. Get real, 'Mr. Governor'," he sneered.

"Do the West-Enders have rifles, Mr. Moyer? Marine battle armor? Armored troop carriers? Omnicom links between their fighters? Satellite surveillance in real time?"

"Do they shit," said Moyer. "They's a lot of 'em, though. And we don't got that crap, neither."

"But we do, Mr. Moyer. Let me know when you're coming, and how many of you there are, and we'll set down at your place with enough cars to get your people out. And if your neighbors give us any trouble, well, they won't be sorry for very long."

"But I won't be Boss no more," Moyer said, scowling.

"No, you'll be the hero who got his people out of that hell hole. Or was 'my people' just a figure of speech?"

"I gotta think about this," Moyer said.

"Go right ahead," the Governor said. "But don't think too long. With or without you, we're getting your people out of there." His finger moved to the disconnect button, then paused.

"And by the way, Mr. Moyer, educating people includes teaching them to read. You might mention that to any of your people handicapped that way—whether child, adolescent, or grown man."

And then he did cut the connection.

 

Year Two: 2141 A.D. (2894 A.U.C.)

"Why, Mr. Sotomayor?" asked the Governor.

The trial was held outdoors, so that everyone could come, if their duties permitted. There was a table and chair for the Governor; a table and chair for the prisoner; that was all. Cords stretched from the end of the farm-house porch to a small tree, from the tree to a chair, from the chair to a saw horse, from the saw horse to another chair, and back to the other end of the porch. A squad of Marines, unarmed but in full armor, faced the angry, restless crowd outside the cordon. The smell of food cooking in the cook tent opposite the farm house clashed with the smell of fear from the packed people.

"I dispute your right to hold this mockery of a trial, along with every other crime you've committed!" said the Attaché. "I am a U.N. citizen, and the senior official of the U.N. embassy to this world. I demand a trial by jury—if you can find anything to charge me with, under real laws!"

The Governor shook his head. "I'm the legally appointed Governor of this planet, Mr. Sotomayor, and I declared martial law within a week of my arrival. The U.N. may choose to review my actions; they may even reprimand or replace me, unlikely as that seems. But that will be too late for you, even if they do."

"Damn you," shouted Sotomayor, "I'm the Attaché! Do you know how many overnight 'Governors' passed through here in my tenure? Two! And three in my father's day! You 'Governors' come and go, but it's the Sotomayors who hold this place together!"

"I won't comment on that," said the Governor, "because it's irrelevant. This trial isn't about my administration of this planet, or about your wish to be in charge. It's about treason."

"Mr. Prosecutor. While the accused gathers his thoughts, would you care to summarize?"

"Sir," said Captain Romubio, the only Marine present in dress uniform instead of armor. "I believe that I have shown that Mr. Sotomayor contacted Mr. Genkina, a Gardena warlord who styles himself 'Mr. Monster', and has a reputation to match the title. Omnicom intercepts demonstrate that Mr. Sotomayor offered Mr. Genkina 'fresh meat' in exchange for his assistance in discrediting your rescue program. Mr. Genkina agreed, and was given the exact time and place that two squads of Marines and an air car would be picking up people in the city. As a result of this, the rescue mission was ambushed by Mr. Genkina's people, who appeared at the agreed-upon time and place, and gave the correct recognition signals."

"Summarize for the court the casualties, please," said the Governor, watching Sotomayor's white face.

"There were no Marine survivors," said Romubio, "and the air car was captured intact enough for Mr. Genkina's future use. Of the civilians trusting us for rescue, all of the women and most of the girls were raped on the spot, in view of the car's pickups, by way of celebration. Some of the men and boys were raped, as well. The leaders of the group seeking our aid, two brothers named Herrera, had their hearts and livers ripped out of their bodies, while still alive. Mr. Genkina ate these raw in front of the car's video, then smashed it."

"So, Mr. Sotomayor," said the Governor, "two squads of Marines are dead, and the people we went to rescue are playthings in the stronghold of a monster. Are you pleased?"

Sotomayor was scared but defiant. "It's your fault. If you'd left things the way they were…"

"If I'd left things the way they were," Augustus said, waving at the crowd, "all these people would be starving and dying in the city. You should have believed me when I said the status quo was done."

"The prisoner will stand," he said, returning to formality. The Attaché rose to his feet slowly.

"Ernesto Sotomayor, you are accused of treason; of consorting with the enemy; of being an accessory before the fact of murder, rape, torture, and cannibalism; all while the colony was under martial law."

"You have refused counsel, and have offered nothing in the way of mitigating circumstances, or in fact any defense except to challenge the authority of this court and this administration."

"The evidence is clear, and I find you guilty." Sotomayor swayed a little, while the crowd shouted approval.

"As to sentence," the Governor continued, "the least of the charges against you merits death. So ordered. Would you prefer to be shot or hung, Mr. Sotomayor?"

The attaché licked his lips. "Shot, if you please."

"Ipse dixit—he said it himself. Sentence to be carried out at dawn tomorrow. Sergeant-Major, secure the prisoner." BAM! went the gavel. "This court is adjourned."

 

TIMISOARA, Alana Maria, b. 2106, Gardena, Eden. Parents Josef (2077-2116) and Irina (2080-2116) Timisoara, immigrated from New Bucharest, Titan, 2098. Graduated Marine OCS as Second Lieutenant May 1, 2125; promotion to First Lieutenant 2128; Captain, 2132; Major, 2136.

Alana by day is an intimidating creature, the Governor wrote in his omnicom journal, in Latin; super-encrypted on top of that; and password-protected with a different password from the one needed to use his system. Strong, fearless, and swift, she leads by example. She asks nothing of her Marines she cannot do herself, from the rifle range to the track field to the obstacle course; and if she isn't the best at everything, she is nearly the best at most. There are Marines who can run faster, run longer, climb better; and of course there are hundreds of technical fields, about most of which she knows only whom to call upon. I do not think, from what I've seen, that any surpass her in firing a rifle, or in unarmed combat.

He paused for a moment, then resumed writing. I went down to the pistol range the other day, and found her there looking over her targets. My own shots are tightly grouped, but hers go through the same hole, one behind the other, like cars in a maglev train!

I wonder how she got that scar? Who failed her, to put her in a situation where someone else could do that to her? And what did she do when she got her hands on the man who wielded the knife?

Alana by day is as intimidating as she is breath-taking, he wrote, but oh, how I hope I'll get to know Alana by night!

 

"That's far enough," the rancher said. "What do you want?" The shotgun hung from his right hand; not pointed at anyone, but quick enough to swing up and pull the trigger, or both triggers. At this range, the expanding ball of shot would blow a hole through a man the size of his head.

"I'd like to talk with you, Mr. Higgins," the Governor said. Higgins was a hard-used fifty years old, gray hair clipped off whenever it got in his face, otherwise hanging ragged over his ears and the back of his neck. His skin was the color achieved only by working in the sun day in and day out, and rarely washing; the deep wrinkles around his eyes, on his forehead, and framing his mouth were carved by years of squinting and frowning. One knee of his jeans was torn, and his boots were almost soleless at the backs.

"Got no time to talk, Mister," he said. "Chores don't wait."

The Governor looked around. This had been a going concern, once; not a big spread but well planned and built. Now the porch on the front of the house leaned like a tired drunk; the barn roof had holes in it; no livestock were in sight; and the windmills stood motionless, despite a hot wind.

"Maybe I could help with the chores while we talk," he suggested. "My folks have a ranch in New Mexico, and I used to work there come summer."

Higgins grunted. "Those hands will blister," he said.

"Then they'll blister," the Governor said, removing his jacket. "Major, you and the squad wait with the car, please."

"No, sir," said Major Timisoara. The two men turned identical looks of outrage on her, but she stood her ground. "Not until Mr. Higgins puts down his shotgun, Sir."

Higgins stared a moment longer, then handed her the shotgun. "Be careful with that," he said gruffly. "It's older than you are—and almost as tetchy."

"Thank you, sir," she said imperturbably; tucked the weapon under her left arm, saluted the Governor with her right, about-faced, and marched back to the car. Higgins chuckled.

After they'd worked fixing fence half an hour, with no complaints and no slacking by the Governor, the rancher said, "Had a wife like that, once. Spunky."

The Governor debated telling him that anyone who called Major Timisoara spunky had better count his body parts afterwards, but decided it would sound like he was taking offense. Instead he asked, "What happened to her?"

"Skin cancer," Higgins said. "That looks like the sun, but it puts out a lot more ultra-violet. We get lots of skin cancers, lots of cataracts, don't have much in the way of doctors."

The Governor nodded, and changed the subject. "Where's the livestock to go with this fence?" he asked.

"Here and there. No use rounding them up until the fence is fixed."

"Really?" the Governor said. "Looks like those mountains to the north and east would fence them in that way; and didn't I see a big river coming in from the west, that flows south and east? I'd think between the two, you've got most of a natural fence. Just build up a few spots, use a fence to keep the cattle out of the crops."

"Hell, man, I can't work the whole valley! It's all I can do to run the spread I've got. Now if my sons were here, and had families of their own…" Higgins shook his head.

"Mind me asking…?"

"Three boys," said Higgins. "Skin cancer got the middle one, Joe. Frank, my oldest, took some cattle into the city to try and get some money for 'em. Nothing came back: son, cattle, or money. Damn city ate the lot."

"Youngest boy, Sam, took a shine to Timlinson's girl, that's my nearest neighbor, east of those mountains. Married her and lives there. Too far to come back here very often."

"Could you work the valley if you had the hands?" the Governor asked.

"Hell, yes! Give me five, six men who work like you've been doing, I could farm part of the valley, raise beef on the rest. But where would I get them? Anyway, no use raising meat and crops I can't sell. Damn city."

"Your omnicom's down, isn't it, Mr. Higgins?"

"Sure is. Died on me about a year back, just quit working. Got it in the house somewhere."

"Thought that might be the case," the Governor said. He stood up straight and stretched his back, grimacing.

"Hard work when you're not used to it," the rancher grinned. He looked down the run of posts with the new wire taut between them. "Good job, though. Would've taken me all day to do this much. How are you with a post-hole digger?"

The Governor laughed. "Tell you what, Mr. Higgins—"

"Hell, call me Paul."

"Paul, then. And my name is Bob. What say I get a couple of Marines out here to finish this while you and I sit and talk?"

"Sounds good to me, Bob."

"Major Timisoara," the Governor said into his omnicom. It lit with her face. "Sir?" she said.

"Have we some Marines here who know how to set fence posts and string wire on them?"

"Yes, Sir, we can do that," she said, without missing a beat. Either she had the capabilities of every Marine at her finger tips, or she'd anticipated his request and found out before he asked. Either way, he approved. Four Marines double-timed out and got to work.

The Governor, the Commandant, and the rancher entered the ranch house. The Governor spotted the broken omnicom, picked it up, and gave it to the major. "Have your comtech look at this, if you would. Mr. Higgins says it failed suddenly."

"Aye aye, Sir," she said, and left the house at a trot.

"Makes me tired just to watch," said the rancher, settling on a couch with a sigh. "Well, Bob, what did you want to talk about?"

The Governor took a wooden chair, and turned it around so he could rest his arms on its back. "Well, Paul, because of your broken omnicom, you haven't heard what we've been up to." He described the bug-out from the city, the invitation for others to join them, and the suppression of warlords who objected.

"It'll be years before everyone who wants out of the city manages it," he said, "but we already have a large population around the farm. We need the crops and the beef you aren't raising."

"None of that city lot would be any good as hands," said Higgins, going straight to the heart of the matter.

"Not at first, no," the Governor said. "But even inexpert help will be better than none. I'm feeding them anyway, so you might as well get some use out of them. Once they learn the work, you can start developing this valley. Then we all benefit."

"What if they want to sit around and do nothing?" Higgins said.

"Then you call us and we'll come take them off your hands. But we don't have many like that. These people are glad to be out of the city, and eager to make lives for themselves."

"Who's going to pay for everything? We'll need work clothes for 'em, provisions until our first crop comes in, tools, vehicles, all sorts of things I don't have and can't pay for."

"Well, Paul, Mr. Timlinson speaks well of your son. He's made him foreman over the new hands we've supplied him with, and says that they and your boy are working hard. Someone who raised a son like that, I'm happy to furnish what he needs. You can pay me back in beef and corn."

"Bob, you got yourself a deal." They shook hands.

"Excuse me," Major Timisoara said, coming in the door. "The comtech's done with Mr. Higgins' omnicom."

"What's the verdict?" said the Governor, passing the machine from her to the rancher.

"It's working fine," she said. "The ROM was fried; I guess Mr. Higgins uses it in the field a lot, and the U-V got to it. We have the same problem with ours, so we carry spare ROMs."

"Damn," said the rancher, scrolling through the displays, "I don't think I even lost any files!" He looked up. "Tell your comtech he does good work, and give him my thanks."

"I'll do that, sir," said Major Timisoara. "I'm sure she'll be pleased to hear it."

 

Year Three: 2142 A.D. (2895 A.U.C.)

"Poison, I said. See for yourself," said Doctor Maldonado.

There was no sign of the cooks, who had fled in fear of being blamed. Those who had been in line had fled, too, and hid in the growing crowd; people were still coming in from the city, but how long before that stopped?

In the mess tents the bodies were everywhere. The smell of vomit and feces hung in the air. Curled beneath the heavy benches, flung into the aisles between the tables, even sprawled face down on the table tops amid the food and the overturned plates, they showed the agony they had endured before the poison stopped their hearts.

He closed the staring eyes of a little girl and tried to take the long view. No doubt she'd be just as dead, just as soon, in the city, and thousands upon thousands of others just like her. But she'd come to him, and put her trust in him, and she had died for it.

"We'll need a burial detail and a cleanup crew," he said around the lump in his throat. "Make sure they handle the bodies respectfully."

"No one will touch them," the doctor said.

"What?"

Maldonado shrugged. Sweat gleamed on the bald head, the long thin face. "They've been living here instead of the city, they've become unfamiliar with death. They're afraid of it now. And these people died eating your food; others will fear that what you killed them with will kill them, too."

"I didn't kill them, damn you!"

"I know," the doctor said. "I'm just telling you how they will think."

The Governor sighed. "Major Timisoara…"

"I'll get some Marines on it right away, sir," she answered.

"Thank you. No body bags, Major. Keep them in open sight all the way to their graves, and bury them openly. Otherwise they'll be saying we took parts, or buried sacks of rocks and used the bodies for tomorrow's menu."

"Aye aye, Sir," she said.

 

"Damn them!" he said that evening, in private. "I knew the city vultures were desperate, but I thought we'd taught them to stay away from here. If they think they can come into my camp and poison people eating my food—!"

"That's just it," Alana said. "They wouldn't dare. I don't think it was them."

"Who then?"

"Someone connected with the ranchers. Someone who wants you discredited, at least partially, so that people will stop depending on you for food. Someone who wants the power himself; or someone who wants to sell the food himself, and charge his own price for it, not the price you set."

"Damn them!" he said, and kicked a chair across the room. He looked at her with tired eyes. "Do you know who it is?"

"I'll find out," she said grimly. "There were only so many who had the opportunity; only so many who had the means. This isn't a rich planet, and there aren't so many who could have done it."

"It is a rich planet. It just has too many people jammed into too small a place; and no one's ever done right by it."

"That's theory. I grew up here." She fingered her scar with an absent forefinger. "Will you let me find out? My way?"

He shrugged. "Is there anything I can do?"

"I'll call you if I need you. Otherwise I'll just bring you the answers, and you can sign the papers to make it official."

"Then I'm for bed," he said, standing up. "Tomorrow always comes, and it comes too soon." He looked back at her, his hand on the door. "Be careful," he said.

She patted the gun on her hip. "I'm not the one who needs to be careful; and it's too late for them who do."

 

He woke up when she slid into bed next to him. "Cold," he mumbled; her skin was like ice. She snuggled up to his back, all bare skin and muscle, and warmed herself on him.

Presently, "Did you get him?" he asked, when the thought bubbled up to the surface.

"Got him," she said sleepily. "Papers in the morning."

"Good," he said, and went back to sleep.

 

Year Four: 2143 A.D. (2896 A.U.C.)

"What are you doing in here?"

Two of them, small boys, dives immortales, they couldn't have been over eight years old, already wild as starved dogs, knives out in the meat locker, looking to steal some ham and scarf it down raw and run away before they were caught, gods, gods, had he accomplished nothing here?

"Well?" he demanded. He could hear Alana behind him, trying to get past him to put herself between him and the knives, but he just couldn't fear two children with one-inch blades, never mind he could pick up either one of them and break him like a stick, well-fed pig of an Earther that he was; he felt like they should be slicing bits off him.

Plainly they didn't like the odds; the knives disappeared, they licked their lips nervously. Dogs, he thought again; cornered dogs wag their tails if they think there's a chance. "We was only…" one of them started.

"Didn't you see the signs? Can't you smell the food cooking? You're going to miss breakfast fooling around in here."

The way they looked at him said they hadn't believed the signs. Oh, believed enough to come out here; but believed he was really giving food away, not for a minute. Maybe didn't recognize the smell of food cooking, or thought it was just another torment. So they went looking for the real food, found it in its treasury, thought to steal some and run.

"That way," he pointed. They went, resigned to their fates. One gave him a sickly grin, well, you can't blame us for trying, can you? Can you? The corporal of the guard, only seventeen years old himself, took them into custody outside the door, and at a word from the major, marched them off towards the cook shacks. And if they went like cattle to the slaughter, dammit, he knew they were going to be fed a decent breakfast, maybe for the first time in their lives.

The gods send they could keep it down.

 

Waiting in line, surrounded by clients (he wouldn't call them transportees even in his own mind, most of them were children, damn it), guards, farm workers, office workers, technicians, he drew her close and said softly, in the constant loud babble around them, "Have I told you lately how much I love you?"

She smiled a little, against her will even, she was so proud and this was so public a place; she guarded his dignity like she guarded his body. Tall as he was, maybe an inch or two taller, embassy children got fed on this world before he came, if no one else. "No," she said, equally softly, "not for, oh, it must be a couple of hours now."

"Well, I do," he said, and kissed her softly, right on the dimple. The closest they had to wedding vows, "I do" and a kiss at odd moments.

 

"Do you know why you're here?"

The man shrugged. "Don't know," he said.

"You're well off, for this planet," the Governor said. "Even got a bit of an education. I can use you."

The man shrugged again. "Druther not be used."

The Governor smiled. "I must have missed the part where I was giving you a choice. Jupiter best and greatest knows I never got one. There's a boy," he said.

"Lots of boys," the man said.

"Too true," said the Governor. "And most of them never get a chance to become men. But we're going to give this one a try, you and I."

The man just looked at him. The Governor said, "Here's the deal. You take the boy. You raise him. We'll keep an eye on both of you. If he turns out all right, I'll make you rich. If he turns out scum, I'll break you."

The man shifted. "Why?"

"I just told you why."

"No. I mean, why me?" Not 'Why are you doing this?' the Governor noted. They must be figuring out, then, that he meant what he said, that he really was determined to try to make things better. He supposed that was good news. Now if only they would help…

"Why not you? You can afford another mouth, and if you had help, you could even expand a bit. Think of it as gaining a pair of hands. Or a son, even."

"A son."

 

The car began pulling away. "Go, boy!" The boy looked at him, not understanding. "Now! Hurry!"

"With him?"

"Hurry! He's getting away!"

The boy took off from a sitting start, ye gods, how the city rats could run! Yelling, waving, you'd think they'd know better than to waste energy.

The man stuck his head out the driver's window. "Come on, boy, this car don't go no slower except in reverse!"

And then the boy really began to run, through the dust, through the lines of people trudging in from the old city, through the tents of the new city beginning to grow around the farm, and the last they saw of him, the passenger-side door opened, and he dove in.

The Governor swallowed a bite of breakfast, and said to his lady, "Think I did the right thing?"

"Ask me in twenty years," she replied.

 

Year Twenty-Four: 2163 A.D. (2916 A.U.C.)

He actually looked forward to visitors from off-planet, now. They were fresh faces, for one thing; for another, they exhibited none of the shock and revulsion they used to, back when he'd received them inside razor wire, after a trip from the space port with a fire fight on the way in as often as not. The last batch had been quite complimentary; one lady had been so kind as to say that Gardena was every bit as nice a city as she'd expected. Gardena was the name of the rubble heap where the ships used to land, inhabited now by snakes and scorpions, if that; the new place was called Farmington. He'd just smiled and thanked her.

He gathered things had progressed quite a bit while he'd been wrestling with his particular swampful of alligators. The alien worlds had stayed awake, rather than lapsing back into mourning for their old masters, and the human worlds had gone from What do we do now? to What can we do next? Some humans and some aliens had even settled some worlds together, while the Childe worlds were putting together an expedition for one of the nearer globular clusters, out in the galactic halo.

His first intimation of trouble came from the Marine who escorted his visitors into his office. Instead of Alana, it was Captain Fuentes, son of her old friend, now retired. "Sir," he said, and handed Robert a note.

The handwriting was Alana's; he'd seen it on his omnicom too many times to mistake it. Let them do the talking, it said. Grant nothing. Be there ASAP. He shoved it into a desk drawer, and looked up. There were three of them: a tall Navy Captain name-tagged LABROT, whom he'd met before; a muscular blond Marine Lieutenant-Colonel whose name tag said IOHANNES; and a fortyish-looking civilian with a little black goatee and mustache to match his wavy black hair, dressed in what had to be the very latest fashion, just by the way he wore it.

"Gentlemen," he said, "won't you be seated?" He glanced at Captain Fuentes, who showed no intention of sitting or leaving, but took up a position of parade rest beside the door. Orders? Let them do the talking, she'd written; so he didn't comment on it.

"Captain LaBrot, good to see you again," he said instead. "Colonel Iohannes, dicisne Latine?"

"Ita, Excellentia. Cave," the Marine replied. The Governor kept his face affable. Yes, Excellency. Watch out, Iohannes had said, his eyes darting at the civilian on his left.

"Good to hear the mother tongue." He looked at the last of the three. "I'm afraid you have the advantage of me," he said.

"Yes, I fancy I do," the civilian drawled, one leg crossed over the other. Jupiter Optimus et Maximus, Robert thought, has that speech affectation come back again?

"Permit me," said Captain LaBrot, "to introduce Your Excellencies to each other. Governor Franklin, this is Robert Marius Augustus, Governor of Eden. Governor Augustus, this is George Samuel Franklin, Governor-designate of Eden." He cleared his throat. "Governor Franklin has been selected as your replacement, sir." The goateed U.N. official nodded his confirmation.

His replacement? It had never occurred to him. A montage flashed before his eyes: Eden from space; the first time he'd seen a Marine squad fire on a city crowd; the embassy walls crumbling; a boy and a girl gobbling food on a bench in the cook tent; a suspicious rancher with a shotgun in his hand; Alana's face asleep in starlight—and where the hell was she, anyway? Grant nothing, he remembered.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "There must be some mistake."

"It's early yet to talk of pardons," Franklin said, swinging a lazy foot back and forth. "There'll have to be a complete investigation first."

He started to get angry then. "Investigation? Investigation of what?" he said quietly.

"There are charges," said Franklin, "of terrorism; of murder; of grand larceny; of genocide; possibly even treason against the U.N. Constitution; and violations of the Universal Charter of Human Rights."

He saw in a flash their plan for him: try him, convict him, ship him off. Would they quietly pardon him, and let him retire to some frontier planet, never to be heard of again? Imprison him, where someone could cut his throat in the night? Or just stand him against a wall and shoot him?

"You forgot jaywalking and spitting on the sidewalk," he said. That made them sit up, the Captain astonished, the Major with respect, the would-be Governor indignant. He dared not look at the Marine by the door. Be there ASAP. All right, stall.

"We're getting ahead of ourselves," he told them. "You, sir; I assume you have credentials to show me?"

Franklin shrugged. "If you like," he drawled. "I can assure you they're perfectly in order."

"In order pro forma? Probably," said the Governor—damned if he'd cede the title before he had to. "In order pro rebus?" He lifted one eyebrow.

"What does that mean?" Franklin asked Iohannes.

"Sir, he says that your papers probably are correct in form, it's their content he doubts," the Latin Marine said.

"I see," Franklin said. He shrugged again. "My briefcase is in the outer office, Colonel."

"Yes, sir," said Iohannes, and left the office. He came back after a moment with a sheaf of official-looking papers; at a nod from Franklin, he came to Robert's desk and passed them over.

Official U.N. documents they certainly were, starting with the embossed seal of the continents of Earth in an olive wreath of peace, still the U.N. emblem even now that other worlds were member states. To underscore that, the Secretary-General's name, at the end, was almost certainly Martian.

"Take your time," Franklin invited him frostily.

He intended to. Whereas it has come to the attention of the United Nations Directorate for Colony Worlds… Robert Marius Augustus, presently Governor of and for the world of Eden… Whereas the following crimes are alleged to have been committed… Now therefore… George S. Franklin is hereby appointed Governor of said planet… there to proceed with all convenient haste… for the investigation of the allegations above detailed. There was more, lots more, but that was the gist. All in proper form, down to the last ridiculous comma.

The gods witness that he'd never expected the public acclaim of an admiring nation, but this was ingratitude to rank with Justinian's putting out Belisarius' eyes (if one believed the story of that acid-penned scandal monger, Procopius). To be here all these years, to work as hard as he had done, to go through all that he had, to accomplish so much—and now this. To provide deniability, no doubt; by convicting him of the worst interpretation of anything he'd done, they got themselves a tidy little colony world all fixed, and clean hands to rule it for them.

Like hell they did!

Alana came in just in time to prevent him from saying something as satisfying as it would have been regrettable; it flew from his mind when he saw her.

Nothing further from Lieutenant-Colonel Timisoara of the U.N. Marine Corps could be imagined than the elegant, dainty creature that swished through the door in a rustle of skirts and a wave of delicate perfume. Every man in the room stood up. "Sorry to keep you waiting, darling," she cooed, and came around his desk and kissed him. She was wearing lipstick; he hadn't known she owned any. "I haven't said anything," he whispered.

"You've been perfect; leave the rest to me," she whispered back. Of course she had monitored the meeting through Captain Fuentes's omnicom, while she gussied up. He didn't know how she'd produced enough hair to pile on her head that way, or put such curls in it. It must be a wig, but damned if he could tell.

"Well, now that I'm here, introduce our guests, dear."

Our guests, he thought. "Certainly, my love. This is Captain LaBrot of UNNS Pusan." He didn't know how he was supposed to introduce her, so he didn't. Didn't know whether he should say, "whom you may remember," knowing full well she did. Not having a script, he'd better say as little as he could.

She held his left arm with both hands and flashed a smile at the dazzled Navy man. "Captain LaBrot," she acknowledged.

"Madam," the Captain replied courteously. Couldn't he recognize her, scar and all? No, he was looking at it. Like the Governor, he was saying as little as possible.

"And this is Lieutenant-Colonel Iohannes of the UNMC," Robert said. He pronounced it the Latin way, Yo-hawn-ness, not Joe-han-nizz as an English monoglot would; and emphasized it, before he remembered she'd heard the earlier conversation. Well, so much the better, to act as if she hadn't been listening.

"Welcome, Colonel," she said warmly.

"Tuam ad servitutem, medomina," Iohannes said, with respect; At thy service, my lady, as to a noblewoman.

"Last, but hardly least," said the Governor, "this is His Excellency, Mr. Franklin from the United Nations."

"Mr. Ambassador!" she cried, and advanced around the desk to take Franklin's hands in hers. "Welcome to our little world. We hardly expected a response so quickly."

"Pardon? I mean, charmed, Madam, I'm sure," he said. "I do hope you'll forgive me, but I'm afraid I didn't catch your name."

"I know," she said, and threw a laughing glance over her shoulder at the Governor. "Robert is just hopeless at introductions," she confided to Franklin. "Then, too, we've been on our own for so long that he forgets that newcomers don't know everybody already. Sit, gentlemen, please! Robert, these gentlemen have nothing to drink! What's wrong with you?"

"But Madam," Franklin broke in desperately, "you still haven't told me who you are."

Alana laughed. "Oh dear, I'm as bad as he is!" She held out her left hand. There on the ring finger, which Robert knew damn well had been bare this morning, sat his mother's wedding ring; and he hadn't even known that she knew that he had it.

"I'm Alana Augustus," she told Franklin, smiling, "the President's wife."

Light dawned in the Governor's mind—no, he was President now, he must remember. The hardest part would be to keep a straight face; they mustn't see that this was all news to him. He cast a quick mind back over the conversation so far. She was right, he saw, he'd played it perfectly; and he was going to strangle her for not discussing it with him when she'd come up with it, however long ago that had been!

Meanwhile Franklin was turning an interesting shade of apoplectic red, or maybe heart-attack purple. LaBrot said, rather more diplomatically than the civilian probably could at the moment, "Congratulations, Madam. When was the happy event?"

Alana laughed. "Oh, we have no children, Captain."

"I meant your husband becoming President."

"Oh! About a year ago, though of course with the constitutional convention, and the campaigning, and the elections, it seems as though it's been happening forever," she said.

"I see," said LaBrot. "You realize the U.N. will have to be notified, and they'll want to send commissioners to examine the records, and then decide how to react? They may wish to offer U.N. membership; they'll certainly want to send an ambassador pro tem."

"But I thought Mr. Franklin was the ambassador," she said."We sent copies of our records with the Sarajevo last year; isn't that why you're here?"

"No," said Robert, with a certain relish, "Mr. Franklin is here to replace me as Governor, dear."

"Governor? But we're independent now. Post-colonial worlds don't have Governors, they have Presidents."

"Well," said LaBrot, "this changes matters greatly. Mr. President, if you would care to make another copy of all the records pertaining to your planetary constitution, the elections, and your laws, I will personally guarantee they're delivered to the Directorate for Colony Worlds, so they can examine them and move your recognition by the General Assembly; as I will certainly recommend. As for the other matter, obviously it's moot."

"What other matter?" Alana asked.

"Never mind," Robert said, scooping up the U.N. papers and shoving them into the same desk drawer as her note. He closed it with the click of the drawer lock.

"You won't get away with this!" Franklin said. "No matter what papers you've trumped up, there won't be any records on the Sarajevo; other ships will testify that you've been Governor, not President; U.N. investigators will discover there was no election—"

"Shut up," said Robert Marius Augustus. There was instant silence. He was a little surprised; he hadn't known he had such a voice in him, like the knell of a brazen gong.

"Even if everything you said were true," he continued, "the U.N. won't do a thing except recognize us and invite us to join. We are an independent world, and have been for some time; ask my lady, who was born here. All the U.N. gave us was a mob of displaced persons we didn't want and couldn't support, without so much as a 'kiss my ass' by way of apology."

"And if the U.N. wants to turn us back into a colony world and exploit us, not only do we have channels into the U.N. net for publicizing any moves against us, some of us have Childe connections, too."

"What?" said Franklin.

"What indeed," smiled Augustus. "My father is an NAU Senator, and one of my grandmothers is a Childe cull. Perhaps you recall that the original Childe ship was built in Earth orbit? My grandparents kept it from being hijacked."

"I won't even mention," he said with Ciceronian irony, "that I'm Latin, like Colonel Iohannes here. Not all Latins are Childe; but all Childes are Latin."

"Captain LaBrot," he finished, "why don't you and the Colonel take Mr. Franklin back to the Pusan and see that he gets a good night's rest and time to think things over? If my lady has the ship's net access," Alana nodded, "we'll send you those records soon."

 

As soon as they were gone, he sat down in his office chair, legs suddenly weak. Then oofed as Alana sat in his lap, arms around his neck. "You were magnificent," she breathed, and kissed him thoroughly.

"You weren't bad yourself," he said. "Still, he's right, there won't be any records on the Sarajevo.  That will give them all the proof they need, if they want to do anything."

"Oh, there are records on the Sarajevo," she assured him. "Too bad they got corrupted, so the U.N. never got the word, but the time and date stamps are intact. There were also records on the Inchon, the Syrtis Major, and every other ship that's stopped here the last few years, but the others have time-expired and self-deleted."

"What about the constitution, the government, the—"

"All real," she said, "even the election. Not everyone wanted to be independent, but everyone agreed it was our best defense, if the U.N. bureaucracy tried to burn us again. Here's the file set," she said, and opened it on his omnicom. "All the posts are real, and you'll recognize the names of the people elected to them. If the votes were cast one by one by omnicom, instead of by paper ballots with everyone physically present, so what? They were cast."

"I'm really President," he marveled.

"Yes, and now we'll have to hold occasional ceremonial sessions, too," she sighed, "and provide headquarters for a U.N. consul. So much for the good old days."

"But how did you do it?"

"How? I was born here!" she said. "Everyone in those files you're looking at, was born here. Think we were going to let them shit on us again?"

"Just glad to be included in the 'us'," he said peaceably.

"You have your moments," she said, and kissed him again.

"So," he said, "going to be Marine Commandant and First Lady both?"

"Nope. I just retired, with a bump in rank to full Colonel and a generous pension, I might add. You'll find that this First Lady is a strong supporter of veterans' benefits."

"What a surprise. Speaking of surprises, how long have we been married?"

"Does it matter?"

"Guess not. Just let me know when our anniversary is coming up. How did you forge my signature?"

"Forge my eye! Honestly, Robert, the things you sign without reading them first—"

"Guess I'd better start reading everything now."

"Too late," she said, which he had to admit was only true.

One thing, though—"I'm afraid there's one thing we have to change," he said. "Maybe you can alter the files before you send them to the Pusan, or maybe we should make it our first order of real business, but it has to change."

She looked anxious and skeptical at the same time. "You see something we all missed?" After all, he'd done it before.

"Oh, yes," he said. "Eden—that's the name of the place you're given for nothing, then you lose it forever. The place you work for, the place you earn—" he cupped her face in his hands.

"That's Heaven," he said; and kissed his wife.

 

From the diary of R. M. Augustus, first President of Heaven:

Governor

Paint it with broad strokes,
No time for fine;
Paint it with wide strokes,
Don't niggle the line.
The Muse who dropt the burden whole
Labored long in the lonely dark:
So seize the bow, and loose the shaft,
And trust it finds its mark.

About The Last Governor of Eden

Most of my stories sit in my head for years, even decades, before I write them. Things I imagined in high school, things I dreamed in college, stories I amused my wife with on long trips… Sometimes I begin writing one right away, but it takes me a while to finish: I began writing The Reborn Princess Caper soon after I had the original idea, and it was still underway when "The Last Governor of Eden" came to me.

"Governor" was a dream I had on the morning of January 4, 2003. I woke up, turned on the light, turned on the computer, blocked out the parts I remembered, and went back to sleep. Then I got up again a few minutes later, wrote down the first version of the poem that ends the story, and went to sleep again.

Not content with giving me a complete story, the Muse then grabbed me by the throat and said, "Now write it, damn you." "But I'm in the middle of Reborn," I protested. "Do it anyway," she insisted. So I did. Never argue with your Muse; she might not be so generous next time.

I may yet turn "Governor" into a novel. Or I might not; no one's paying me by the word. There's lots and lots more of it in my head, but there's lots of other stuff waiting to be written, too.

"Governor" has obvious antecedents. First, Jerry Pournelle's novels of the CoDominion and the mess it made on colony worlds (see "The Prince" on Baen Books Online, www.baen.com). The relationship between Robert and Alana was partly inspired by the prince and his marine lady in March Upcountry and its sequels, by David Weber and John Ringo, also available from Baen. But it's also inspired by the paidhi and his bodyguard/lover in C. J. Cherryh's books Foreigner and its many sequels, which I recommend to you, along with everything else the lady has written. The language of my original notes for "Governor" is also inspired by Cherryh.

Despite the similarities, I felt "Governor" was worth writing for its own sake. I hope that you agree.

— Leo David Orionis
San Diego
Ides of January, 2756 A.U.C. (1/13/2003)
"The Last Governor of Eden" copyright © 2003 by Green Sky Press. All rights reserved.