tagSci-Fi & FantasyThe Preacher's Daughter

The Preacher's Daughter


Chapter 1. Fledging Flight

Time: January 1, 9570 10:00 AM UCT

Daily commercial flight B210 Doha to Judah took off promptly on time. Eliana would have been very surprised if it hadn't. Except for occasional weather related delays, a commercial aircraft had not missed a scheduled departure time in decades. And the sun over the former site of Cape Town, South Africa was brilliant. Eliana took a moment to admire the brief view of the sparkling South Atlantic as the plane banked over the northern harbor area before aligning itself to its east-northeast flight path.

The plane rose quickly, and as it approached its assigned cruising altitude of 13,000 meters, the powerful p-B11 fusion engines throttled up and pushed the craft to Mach 2. The 3800 km trip to Judah would take two hours, limited not by power constraints but by the supersonic friction heating the aircraft. The fusion engines could keep the plane aloft and supersonic for months, pumping as much power into the jet thrusters as the turbine blades could handle.

"Such a change," thought Eliana as she looked around the half-full forty-passenger cabin. "After six years at the capital, I'll be living at the most isolated township in the world." Named Reunion in ancient prewar times, the island of Judah in the Indian Ocean was about to become her new home.

Eliana's eyes wandered back to the window to admire the beauty of the lush farming areas of the African landscape. Locally there were still more than three hours of daylight left. But sunset at Judah today would be at 10:20 AM universal capital time. It would be full night by the time they landed. As Eliana thought about her new life, her hand came up unconsciously to trace the unfamiliar pattern of the diamond insignia on her arm.

"Having a comfortable flight, Commander?"

Eliana turned her gaze from the window and addressed a uniformed CL-2 standing in the aisle. "Oh yes, I'm fine, thank you. Just admiring the scenery."

The man nodded. "I'm Amir, the flight steward." He looked closely at the emblems below Eliana's Class rank of red diamond. "Ah, a priestess, huh? And a military aviator too! Are you qualified for this plane's pilot cabin?"

Eliana grinned. "Well, most of my flight time has been with jump jets. But yes, I'm certified for transports, military and civilian."

"Excellent. We'll be serving a light dinner at 10:50. If you're willing to pass on the alcoholic beverages, would you like to dine with the pilots? I'm sure they'd enjoy your company."

"Yes, that would be very nice. Thank you Amir."

The man nodded and then gave her a playful grin, tilting his head towards her insignias and remembering her recent hand at her arm. "Let me guess. Recent promotion?"

Eliana chuckled. "Is it that obvious? Yes, very recent! This is my first day to wear the diamond."

"Congratulations then! Especially in the military Priesthood, that's quite an achievement." The man gave a final respectful bow and continued to work his way towards the front of the passenger cabin. Eliana settled back into her plush chair.

After a moment she remembered the present her Stateswoman great-to-the-sixth grandmother had sent her from New Jerusalem. It had been waiting for Eliana unexpectedly as she made her quick change of flights at Doha. Eliana ripped open the package and found two books, one new and one old, plus a short note from her dear distant ancestor. She took a moment to open the old book first. It appeared to be a book on fifth millennium art. She then read the note.

"Eli, the family couldn't be more proud of you, to have you reach command rank at the age of twenty-seven! I believe the last person to advance that fast was a man named Ilias, someone I'm sure you've heard about. Hah! It appears that Riding the Assad is not a lost art. Speaking of which, the enclosed art book is a family treasure. When Abdul Hadi died, your great-to-the-thirty-second grandmother Chanah gave this book to Kefira's granddaughter Thirza, and it has been passed down the family tree ever since. Chanah told Thirza that this was the book she found Ilias sleeping with when she awoke from her purge cycle the day they were married. Quite a bit of history! I've also enclosed the commemorative copy of our ancestor's First Tower, hot off the presses! Again, congratulations, and best wishes on your new assignment. Choose well! Love, Naysa."

Eliana traced her fingers lightly over the old book as she contemplated the gift. Chanah's wedding day was now more than 1300 years in the past, and it was a thousand years and two days since the death of the world's beloved Abdul Hadi. Eliana glanced at the familiar pages of the First Tower, and then read the publisher's note at the back of the book.

"Wow," she thought. "Judgment 4, 9570, two days ago. This book really is hot off the presses. Grandmother, how did you do this? It must be a pre-release proof copy." Eliana read the publisher's note again. One phrase stuck in her mind, the comment that the last thousand years had not been paradise. "No, indeed not," she agreed. "Our species seems determined not to live there."

The flight continued to soar above the African landscape at Mach 2. Eliana gazed out the window again. The view showed that all the farmland had disappeared, replaced by a much more rocky landscape of small ridges and valleys. She sighed and closed her eyes and thought of all the history since the fateful year of 8244.

Abdul Hadi had been overly optimistic in his hope that there would be no backsliding on the promises of the world to end female slavery. After he became an eternal virgin, there were a dozen years of township revolts against the new order and his visions of social justice and gender equality. In many of these early years, the warfare would claim hundreds of thousands of lives, typically one to three percent of the world's population. And all the while the world's birth rate was almost zero, less than a thousand per year. The flood of new children out of the abandoned monasteries had overwhelmed a population that had no experience in raising children in a family setting, and almost no one had a desire to add to the chaos. There were times when the future of the world still appeared very much in doubt. It was during these early years that Abdul Hadi began his preaching ministry among the townships.

The combination of Jibran seizing control of the Supreme Council plus the fierce loyalty of the rank and file militia to Abdul Hadi's cause finally allowed the servant of the Guide's vision for a new society to prevail. By the year 8258, the warfare was over and the population count for a few months dipped below twenty-one million. Six short years later, the birth rate exploded, returning to pre-civil-war values of 480,000 by 8264. After several more years, it became obvious that with no childhood culling nor lottery with the anti-aging drugs, the world was on a trajectory for a huge growth in population. The debates over the next decade were fierce and often divisive. It wasn't until the year 8279 that a consensus was reached and the annual birth rate stabilized at 120,000.

Before the civil war, the populations of the 120 townships were extremely uniform. By law, each township had the capacity to house 200,000 people, with had an actual population of around 167,000. The capital Bandar Arenas was populated with its designed maximum of five million. Based on original estimates of new life expectancies, people thought the population would stabilize at 28.5 million, and the construction of twenty-one new townships began.

By the time Abdul Hadi was cured of his eternal virginity at the start of Judgment in 8316, the world's population was 29 million and growing temporarily at a rate of 75,000 per year due to the artificially youthful population profiles. Several of the new townships were already nearing completion, three in northern Africa along its western Atlantic coast and two in New Zealand. The expectation was that the new construction and reserve capacity of the original townships could comfortably house the temporary bulge in the population.

But no one had anticipated that women on lifetime anti-aging drugs would live longer than men, a few perhaps even reaching 400 years of age. By the mid 8400's, it became clear that the population would stabilize at around 32 million, not 28.5, and the peak bulge would approach 40 million around the year 8496. A massive housing campaign ensued worldwide for the 140 residential townships, increasing the maximum capacity of each to 250,000, with the long-term expectation of 200,000 actual residents. In 8499 the Islands of New Jerusalem were voted to be set aside for special purpose, and like the spaceport Xerxes not be a township for permanent residency. In the early 8500's the population began its slow decline to 32 million and the housing problem was considered solved.

In Eliana's opinion, her ancestor Abdul Hadi saved the world twice, once during the civil wars and again when he helped create the present form of government. The Citizen Level system was preserved. There was still a universal desire to run the society as a meritocracy, in spite of the new family structures. But the value of the promotions changed profoundly. There were only modest increases in stipends between levels, barely more than token amounts. Housing and medical care and basic staples were provided free to all. The real value of promotions came in influence and voting rights.

The names for Royalty (CL-16 to CL-23) and Ruling Royalty (CL-24 to CL-31) were changed to Governor and Statesperson. The Governors typically ran the Guilds, and the Statespersons, typically about 800 in number, formed a body with combined legislative and judicial power. The top eleven Citizens also formed a supreme executive council.

But the real power of the government was distributed back to the general population. Each person had a weighted vote equal to their Class Level, and a 40% weighted no-vote could nullify any legislative or judicial decree of the State House. The State House could design laws, but the ultimate decision of whether the laws would stand forever rested with the lack of a 40% weighted dissent of the population. The ultimate power of the government had thus been returned to the people. The form of government was summed up in a child's nursery rhyme, "The State will propose, and the people will dispose."

"Is it fair?" Eliana thought, as she pondered the structure of her government. All infants legally become one-year old on the Judgment 1 after their birth. At the age of thirteen, they all become CL-1 and have one vote each. Not much to be sure. Eliana guessed the entire class of CL-1 (all children 13 to 20 years of age) would have less than 1% of the world's vote. But at least they were part of the franchise, and Eliana couldn't think of any ancient country that had opened up voting rights to so young an age group.

At age 21, all children became CL-2 and had two units of voting rights. In the following years, citizens could compete for promotional advancement at Judgment, and one in thirty for each age group and each Level would advance, gaining influence in the society both in voting rights and within their Guild.

"Not a paradise," Eliana thought. "No. Perhaps the closest we've come to it was in the early 8500's. Those were good times..." The society had been vibrant at the time. Abdul Hadi had used his enormous influence to resurrect the space program. There were a set of orbiting research space-stations and lunar bases, and dozens of interstellar probes were being launched each year to the surrounding stars. It was a pure gift to the society's far-future children. The light-burner drives were in their infancy then, and now in 9570 more than 80% of the probes still had not returned.

After Abdul Hadi's death, the world seemed to drift. By 8700, the last of the lunar bases was abandoned and all funding withdrawn from the interstellar exploration program. The world suffered through centuries of drug abuse and lawlessness, searching for a new morality to cope with growing pains of the new society.

Men and women might live to be 300 to 400 years, but female fertility ended around age seventy, and most women preferred to have their one or two children between thirty to forty years of age. The result was that for the first time in history, people had the opportunity to interact with their ancestors eight to ten generation back, with the older minorities holding much of the weighted voting rights. At times, the system of government seemed designed to maximize generational tension.

"I wonder if the new voting profiles are posted yet." Eliana thought to herself. She opened her eyes and pulled out her laptop and linked to the UGW (unified global web). After a moment of typing a Class population query for her age group, she had the following information on her screen:

Age 27: CL2=96193 CL3=17851 CL4=1380 CL5=57 CL6=1 CL7=0 CL8=1

"Yep, there I am," she thought. After a bit more typing, Eliana pulled up a table on the first ten voting Classes and found that CL8 represented a Class peak in voting rights.

1.17 million CL-1held 0.62% of the vote, average age = 16

3.58 million CL2 held 4.37% of the vote, average age = 52

3.55 million CL3 held 5.63% of the vote, average age = 83

3.38 million CL4 held 7.16% of the vote, average age = 114

3.20 million CL5 held 8.46% of the vote, average age = 144

2.98 million CL6 held 9.48% of the vote, average age = 172

2.73 million CL7 held 10.10% of the vote, average age = 198

2.41 million CL8 held 10.22% of the vote, average age = 219

2.05 million CL9 held 9.77% of the vote, average age = 238

1.66 million CL10 held 8.80% of the vote, average age = 253

Eliana's uniqueness was not due to reaching Command rank as such, 70% of adults would do so in their lifetimes. Her uniqueness was that she had done it so young, passing all six of her annual attempts at Class advancement. People would typically enter command rank around the age 200. For Eliana to do it at age 27 was remarkable.

"I wonder what Amir would think if he knew I just turned 27. He was so respectful, treating me as an elder. I'm likely to be half his age. Would he be happy for me, resentful, would he feel deceived, what..." Eliana frowned. "It would be awkward to tell him. It would seem like boasting."

Her thoughts returned to the world's history. "And then the late 8900's, what a mess that was." For a brief number of decades, the government tried to push against the human genome's designed birth ratio of three females to one male. The negative feedback from the older society was severe, and from both genders. The males resented the thought of the increased competition and their freedom to choose from both monogamous and polygamous marriages. The women still had a sharp collective memory of their eight millennia of enslavement, and greatly resented the possibility of giving up their hard-won 75% majority in voting rights.

And the artificial gender selection techniques also brought back memories of the horrors of the last time humanity meddled with the human genome, in the thirty years before the War of the Burning Metals. By the year 9000, all official attempts to shift the population gender ratio were cancelled.

Eliana sighed. "Are we in paradise now? The people of Abdul Hadi's time might think so. No major problems, certainly no wars, technology is still advancing, though very slowly, social discontent is at an all-time low. When was the last time I read a news report about vandalism?"

Eliana giggled. "Oh yeah! Four years ago, early 9566, that business at Aleppo, those fake holograms and spoofed news reports about a giant octopus attacking the docks! But that was more hilarious than malicious, playful and artfully done. And the technology! Who would have guessed you could fake a hologram over that large an open area? They had the monster a thousand meters long! Very innovative! It was almost worth the few minor injuries from the evacuation."

The smile faded from her face. "And yet... Are we drifting? Where is our sense of wonder, our yearning to explore? The technology makes life so easy. A typical work-month is fifteen five-hour shifts, and most people don't even work that. There's no need. And yet... We have the technology to explore the universe, have a human presence on Mars for the first time ever. We could be there in five years, maybe a permanent base in eight. What's stopping us? Why don't people care?"

Eliana sighed and stretched and knew she would not find an answer to her question. She glanced back at the sun sinking rapidly to the western horizon. A moment later Amir came and politely escorted her to the pilot cabin.

Chapter 2. New Assignment

Eliana awoke precisely at sunrise, the first rays of the local morning shining into her eyes from her bedroom's eastern windows. She glanced at the clock, 8:58 PM. "Ah," she thought to herself. "It's one thing to have the dry geographic knowledge, to know that Judah's cathedral has its solar noon 8:25 hours earlier than the capital's. It's another matter entirely to expect a date change three hours after sunrise! I wonder if phrases like tomorrow and later today might have different meanings here."

Eliana rose from the bed and checked her communications log before her shower. She was very surprised to see that her scheduled orders to report in had been postponed for 24 hours. For the first time in many months, Eliana had a completely free day ahead of her.

She decided to go to the beach. Her living complex was only a few hundred meters from the north shore of Judah, and the views of the sand and the surf from her windows reminded her of her childhood and looked just too good to pass up. So she put on a bikini and headed out shortly after eating breakfast, reminding herself to be sure to pick up some sunscreen lotion on the way.

The beach was delightful, fine white sand gently sloping to a warm and pristine tropical ocean. The local beach was a family beach, and there were a number of preschool children playing nearby at the surf's edge. Eliana read a sign which told her that ten kilometers further west was a beach meant for CL1's seeking dates, and then a similar beach for adults, and beyond that a beach where public copulation was permitted. The sign finished by informing Eliana that nudity was permitted on the family beach, but people were asked to refrain from all sexual behavior while naked, including simple petting.

The rules suited Eliana just fine. She felt no immediate need for male companionship. She jogged the beach eastward for more than an hour, an easy loping gait of three-minute kilometers. After a while the township was far behind her and she ran admiring the undisturbed wild shore. At the end of her jog, she spent some time practicing Tai Chi in a deserted cove, and then sprinted back to town at full power, finishing her morning exercise with an energetic swim in the warm ocean. Afterwards she chatted with several of the parents at the beach, mostly mothers with a few fathers, and spent the rest of the time before lunch helping a group of small and mostly unclothed children build a sand castle.

By the time January 2 arrived, the sun was at an altitude of about 40 degrees and Eliana guessed its azimuth about 13 degrees south of due east. The island of Judah was close to 21 degrees south of the equator, but this close to the southern summer solstice, the sun was even further south and would be almost directly overhead at 3:39 AM later this new morning. After six years of living with the much less potent sunlight of Bandar Arenas, Eliana decided not to push her luck with the sunscreen and headed back to her living complex. She spent the rest of the easy day touring the city while keeping in the shade, and meeting a few of her new neighbors. She posted a few notes to her family in the local evening and sacked out early, feeling more relaxed than she had been in a very long time.

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