Fontana D’or, director of the Socialist Alliance stared out the massive window in her office looking at the dry barren mountains to the south of the city. Few people appreciated the beauty of a desert landscape. She loved it. The jagged peaks had not been worn by water and she appreciated the subtle shades of brown and red. The life that did grow in the desert was tough and resilient. A bit like her, a farm girl from Rio Querino, now head of the Socialist Alliance. She had scraped her way to the top. There was always lip service to equality between men and women, but when it came right down to it some fields would always be dominated by men. She had come through the ranks of military intelligence and while they were happy to use her assets in field work promotions and commands were hard to come by. Javis had appreciated her work and promoted her accordingly. Since his death she had taken the reigns of command and had the support of the military, even if some of her Generals begrudged it.
The com panel on the desk lit up. “Yes?” Fontana asked.
A tinny voice came though the speaker. “Agent Lydia ____ is here to see you as requested.”
“Send her straight in.” Fontana brushed at invisible dust on her impeccable uniform and sat down behind her desk. Her short cropped black hair and olive skin contrasted the gray of the uniform and she cut a striking figure.
Agent Lydia _____walked into the room, she had shoulder length blonde hair and sparkly blue eyes. She was wearing tight denim pants and a plain white shirt. She looked to be only about seventeen but was actually a decade older. She had been recruited directly by Fontana for intelligence work.
“Reporting as requested Ma’am.” Lydia stood at attention and kept her face impassive. She had met Fontana before several times, they both came from the same small town in the pepper farming region. Lydia’s aptitude tests had drawn attention of high ups and when Fontana saw where she was from she had personally come to recruit her. It was all heady stuff to be wanted and known by the highest ranking officials in the government and Lydia was happy to serve.
“Congratulations on finishing boot camp and your agent training. I’m promoting you to Special Agent, and you will report directly to me. You will not take orders from anyone else regardless of their rank.”
“Yes Ma’am.” Lydia was blown away. She knew she was good, but not that much better than any of the other agents that she had just gone through training with.
“I have a very unique assignment for you. You will be deep undercover as a high school student. I’ll be placing you on Pangea.” A look of confusion past over Lydia’s face and Fontana smiled at her. “Few of my predecessors as heads of this alliance have really understood that the war we wage against capitalism will not and cannot be won on the battlefield. Zarahemnah Zaragoza waged a war so intensely that he even managed to capture the Republic’s capital Galantos, but what did it get him? Rebellion. Not only rebellion, but it cost him his life when they assassinated him. No the way to spread socialist equality across the galaxy is not by force, but by ideas.” Fontana slid a tablet across the table, Lydia picked it up and began to flip through the open files. “Six young girls on the planet Pangea. All come from wealthy families. All attend the same private high school. All have natural leadership abilities, and all have a stubborn or rebellious streak. You start school there next week. Befriend them and teach them about socialism. Your task is to convert them to our cause. We will undermine the Republic from within and eventually as the rising generation takes power they will simply unite with us under one great galactic wide socialist banner.”
Lydia smiled. “Equality for all, Director.”
“Equality for all.”
Emily Giagua was bored. She stared out at the ocean from the front room of her parent’s posh house. Her dad, Middoni, was one of the richest men in the galaxy and after Pangea had become part of the Republic he had bought the large island Jedan and moved his family to it. Emily had an entire tropical island, but she was bored. The storm blowing through limited any outdoor activities and communications had been spotty. A message had come through from her friend Lydia though and Emily was hoping the storm wasn’t ruining the flight that was bringing her.
There was a bit of a break in the water coming down from the skies and Emily smiled seeing the hovercopter coming in for a landing on the private field. There was some perks to being rich, ordering your dad’s pilot to run over to the mainland to pick up your friend was certainly one of them.
Lydia came running towards the house as the rain picked back up again. Emily thought that she was pretty, tall and blonde and always getting attention. Not that Emily didn’t get a great deal of attention too; she just didn’t have the same model look. Emily’s hair was brown and curly, and her light greenish blue eyes took in a great deal. She dressed stylishly but not outrageously like so many of her other rich friends.
Lydia was different though. Emily could only describe her as political. She was finding herself agreeing more and more with Lydia’s ideas of the world. Emily went to the door as she watched her friend dash through the rain. She placed her hand on the door and the scanner flashed while the door slid open. Lydia ran in and smiled at Emily.
“Hey Em, little wet here today.”
“You think? You remember where the bathroom is right, go get dried up.”
“I don’t want to stay long, but I wanted you to come with me.”
Emily looked quizzically at her friend. “Where to?”
“I have had just about enough of the propaganda we’ve been hearing lately about the Republic. I’m going to run away and join the Socialist Alliance.” Lydia smiled at Emily’s shocked look.
“Are you serious?”
“Absolutely! The SA could use two smart girls like us. What do you think? Run away with me?”
Emily continued to stare at her friend who was still dripping water from her hair. She had had her rebellious moments, but nothing like this. Her parents were going to freak out when they found her gone.
Like Lydia could read her thoughts she smiled knowingly at her. “We’ll tell your parents you’re going to stay at my house for a week or so, we’ll be long gone before your Dad wigs out.”
The idea was growing inside Emily, she would be eighteen soon. There wouldn’t be anything her parents could do about her wanting to work somewhere else. The impulsiveness of it all was appealing to Emily as well. Life was just too structured sometimes. “Okay, we’ll do it.”
“Great, get your things. I told the pilot to wait for us.”
Emily grinned mischievously and dashed upstairs to pack a bag.
Emily practiced her bored I’m too good for this look that so many of the girls at school had perfected. She figured it was a good way to blend in while waiting at the space station. Just let everyone believe that you’re a spoiled rich kid and that your parents are around somewhere and no one will bother you. So far it was working well. Lydia was off looking for a ship that would be going to one of the Socialist worlds. It wasn’t easy anymore, once every ship leaving this station was heading for a Socialist world, now that Pangea had joined the Republic all the ships were heading to Republic destinations. Something would surely be going in the right direction. Lydia was sure that she could arrange transport. Emily’s job was to watch arriving ships and make sure that no one was looking for them yet. Her parents had bought the story that she was going to spend some time with Lydia. But there was no telling with her dad just how soon he would check up on her.
Emily spotted Lydia making her way through the crowd. Their eyes met and Lydia flashed a smile and waved Emily to join her. “I found us a ship heading to Verde. It is making a stop at Atlantis II before that, but I managed to convince the Captain to take us all the way to Verde. The ship is called the Farseer.”
“Sounds great. How soon are we leaving?”
“In just a couple of hours. Downside is that we have to berth with the female crew members of the ship.”
Emily shrugged. She had never traveled anywhere but in a private ship, “Should be an adventure.”
Lydia grinned. “Grab your stuff, let’s go get onboard.”
The trip on the Farseer was uneventful, Captain Bemer made the girls feel welcome and they had run of most of the ship. The girls spent most of their time in the observation deck watching the swirl of hyperspace pass by. They were confined to the observation deck when the ship landed on Atlantis II. Bemer didn’t want to explain passengers to customs officials. The girls watched the transfer of cargo out the viewport and were amazed at how soon the ship was loaded and ready for take off again.
As the last crates were being loaded Emily turned to Lydia. “How are we going to explain ourselves to the officials on Verde?”
“Don’t worry, I have a friend there who is going to meet us.” Lydia shrugged and continued to watch the crew outside.
“You never told me that you had a friend there already.”
“I guess I should of. His name is Sam, and he’s going to help us get to Rio Querino, he said he has jobs already lined up for us in the capital there.”
Emily was surprised by all this, “Why didn’t you tell me all this?”
“I wanted it to be a surprise. He said he can even get us introduced to Fontana.”
Emily was even more shocked, it was setting in just how little she had thought this through. The memory of Fontana D’or was not a pleasant one to the people on Pangea. She was remembered as Javis’s right hand General, and was known for being ruthless. Emily believed in the idea of equality between classes, but was Fontana really the right woman to work with?
Lydia seemed to know her thoughts, “Hey, remember that the winners are the ones that write history. Everything I’ve heard about Fontana says that she is good leader, I don’t think all the stories about her are true. I’m excited to meet her. Maybe I can even give her some of my ideas on how to make the Republic more socialist.”
Emily nodded, that was her goal too. To help the Socialists spread equality to the Republic. She would wait till she met Fontana and make her own decision. If she was willing to listen to Emily and Lydia’s ideas then she would be someone worth working for.
The Farseer was soon on its way again and the girls were enjoying dinner in the officers mess. Captain Bemer sat down next to them. “We’ll be at Verde by morning. Are you two sure that this is where you want to be?”
Lydia smiled at him. “Of course, I know people there, we’ll be fine.”
Bemer focused his attention on Emily. “Are you sure? Cause when your dad finds out where you are he’s likely to start a war.”
Emily drew in a deep breath and looked at him stunned. “How do you know who my dad is?”
Bemer leaned back in his chair. “It took me a while to place your face. But when I heard on Atlantis II that Middoni Giagua had a half million credit reward for information on the disappearance of his daughter it all clicked.”
“Are you going to tell him?”
“Of course. I’m in the business of making money. I’ll fulfill my contract though and deliver you safely to Verde though, unless you would like a return ticket home. It sounded like your parents were very worried.”
“Fine, he won’t find me. And make sure you tell him that I ran away of my own accord.”
“I’ll do that. Just make sure you take care of yourself. If you get hurt out there your dad is likely to blame me, and while he may have started out in the same business I’m in, he’s got a whole lot more power now and I don’t need his weight coming down on me.”
“Don’t worry. I can take care of myself.”
“And if you change your mind and want a ride home, call me.”
Emily nodded and she and Lydia went back to their quarters to get everything ready for the next morning.
Verde lived up to its name. It was even greener than Pangea. The Farseer touched down on a landing pad cleared out of a jungle. Even the ground was green covered in thick lichen. Lydia’s friend Sam had gotten her message and was waiting for them as they exited the ship. He was exceptionally tall, and very thin. His skin was black and his closed cropped hair reminded Emily of some of the ball players on her dad’s team back home. She suspected he would be good at zero g ball with his long reach.
He smiled wildly showing off perfect white teeth and pulled Lydia in for a hug. “Good to see you again Lyd.”
“You too Sam. You been waiting long?”
“Nope, you’re right on time. Let’s get into town though. Your ship was spotted by the space traffic controllers and they’ve got people on the way. I thought you said this guy never gets caught?”
“Bemer must be getting sloppy, or he wanted to get caught.” Lydia looked at Emily, “Unless he wanted us to get caught.”
Sam grabbed the girls bag’s and headed for the tree line, “Either way it is just easier not to explain. Let’s go.” He led them down a thin path through the thick foliage. Insects chittered away and brightly colored birds dodged in and out of the branches. They soon came to a hovercar tucked under the trees. The car was old and had a large bubble dome on top. It opened at Sam’s approach and the girls climbed in. “Sorry my ride is old, but it’s small enough to duck down into trees when I need to, and you can’t beat the price of an old tourist car. Enjoy the view. It’s nothing but jungle from here to the capital, and then I’ll be putting you straight onto a ship for Rio.”
Lydia frowned, “We don’t get to hang with you any longer than that?”
“Sorry love, I got you and your friend jobs on Rio, and they want you right away. Hopefully business takes me there in a couple of weeks though. In the meantime though some friends of mine pulled some strings and you got you and Emily an interview with Fontana D’or. Apparently she sounded excited to meet Emily Giagua and is thrilled to hear that the children of capitalist leaders are interested in socialism.
Emily smiled, the excitement of the adventure was coming back and she found herself looking forward to meeting the most powerful woman in the galaxy. The car rose up over the trees and shot off towards the setting sun. Emily watched the greenery below and found herself drifting off to sleep.
The trip to Rio Querino was dull and quick and before Emily knew it she was standing side by side with Lydia looking up at the massive sandstone building that comprised the capital building for the entire Socialist Alliance. Lydia had explained to her that most of the government operations were run out of the old capital complex on Balsavis, but that Fontana liked governing from her home planet, and so wherever she set up camp was the capital of the Alliance. The landscaping around the capital was minimal, mostly rock and cactus with a few trees that required little water. Rio Querino only had a very small ocean and was located at the edge of the habitable zone around its sun. It was very hot. But it had many large rivers that welled up from deep underground that created rich fertile zones in the deep canyons that they carved. Rio Querino was especially known for the peppers that it grew, both sweet and spicy. The finest chefs around the galaxy preferred to only use Rio peppers in their dishes.
Two burly heavily armed guards watched the girls approach the main doors. The glass doors slid open automatically at their presence and they stepped in to the cooled interior from the blazing heat outside. The lobby was polished sandstone and a fountain bubbled in the center of the room. On the other side of it a line had been formed leading through the security checkpoint to the rest of the building.
A woman in uniform approached the two young women. “May I help you?”
Lydia turned to her, “Yes, I’m Lydia ____ and this is Emily Giagua. We have an appointment to meet Fontana D’or.”
The woman checked her palm computer. “Yes you do, please proceed through security and take the lift to the tenth floor. Someone will direct you from there.”
“Thanks.” Lydia led Emily around the fountain and in a few minutes they had passed through the weapon scanners and were in the lift rising quickly to the top level. The door opened and they stepped out into another lobby.
Several armed guards eyed them and another woman looked up from a reception desk. “Ah, you must be Lydia and Emily. Right this way please.” She beckoned them to follow her through a large double wide door into the adjoining room. “Please wait here and Director D’or will see you soon.”
Emily plopped down on a thickly cushioned couch and Lydia wandered over to a window. Emily watched Lydia go. “Aren’t you excited? I would think this would be a dream come true for you.”
“Oh it is, I’m just so nervous now that I’m here.”
The door opened and Fontana D’or stood there in full uniform looking out. Her dark eyes took in the two young women and she smiled broadly at them. “Welcome to Rio Querino and the Socialist Alliance. I’ve heard so much about the two of you and cannot wait to get to know you. Lydia, why don’t you come in first.”
Lydia looked at Emily who gave her a smile of encouragement. The door closed behind them.
Once the door was closed Lydia came to attention. “It is my pleasure to report that my mission has been successful director.”
Fontana smiled ruthlessly at her protégé. “Well down Lydia, well down. Any difficulties?”
“No ma’am. Emily believes completely that I am her age and her friend. I discovered quickly that she and many other republic youth are primed for a socialist takeover. They feel the injustice of their system keenly. Even the children of the one percent feel that wealth is unfairly distributed. Emily has had to work for everything herself despite her dad being one of the wealthiest men in the Republic. He doesn’t give her money, except for an excellent education and a few other perks of their wealth. But she has always had to work for the fun things she does.”
Fontana sat down at her desk and crossed her arms. “Does she know how her father made his money?”
Lydia shook her head. “I don’t know, we’ve never discussed it. All I ever heard was that he got rich in the war.”
Fontana nodded her head, “A basic truth. He got rich in the war stealing from the Socialists and selling it to the Republic. He and his team stole dozens of warships, and all kinds of new technology. The Republic paid for it all and Middoni Giagua and his brother got filthy rich, off the work of our hands.”
Lydia became incensed at the passion in Fontana’s voice as she relayed the information. “What can I do director?”
“I need you to stay undercover as Emily’s best friend. Once she is completely on our side I’ll redeploy you to the field. Now go back out there and send Emily in. If all goes well she’ll soon be the poster child for the future of the Socialist Alliance and the galaxy.” Fontana smiled again and it made Lydia think of a calculating beast on the hunt.