IV: Anti Ordinary
Noble men gather to debate
Journalists are introduced
And speculations run wild
The gates of the dome slid open with ease and allowed the slick black speed car to pass through and enter Londinium. It continued down the main street and halted outside the Protectorate. The building was an exact replica of the historic Parliament, but where the original was made of brick and mortar the center of the Commonwealth was constructed from black steel and tinted glass. There had been a plan from the early builders of the modern union to create something that at the same time harkened back to the past yet represented the space age in which they lived. That and the fact that brick were impossible to find, seeing as no one had bothered to bring them during The Exodus and finding a method to construct new ones was too arduous a task.
It was the seat of the governing body of the Commonwealth and sat at the heart of Londinium, a constructed capital that only housed official buildings. No one lived there and at night a skeleton crew of guards or officers inhabited the dome. Just like the Protectorate Londinium was the hub of the Commonwealth and the nations that were part of it were spread out around very much like a wheel across Venus.
Lords Wilcox and Moore stepped out of the vehicle, straightened out their suits and gave the driver, a rudo dressed in a black uniform with the Commonwealth crest stitched on his lapel, and walked towards the black building. Londinium was the smallest of the domes on the planet and the buildings and offices contained under it where snugly put next to each other except for the Parliament that had been given a generous amount of space to house a proper English garden spread out over several acres. The grounds housed a grand lawn suitable for Cricket, a pond and an area with herbs and flowers of typical British stock. The Commonwealth’s terraforming of the planet had been more successful than the attempts of other nations, at least in the field of grass and plants, yet proper trees and fruits still eluded the scientists. The atmosphere had also only been partially modified and the different areas on the planet had to be housed under giant domes to keep the inhabitants safe from the elements.
The inside of the building was teaming with activity, as it always was the minutes before Parliament was to convene. Runners were hurrying back and forth across the great hall making sure that their lordships were in possession of the information they needed for the upcoming debates. Lord Moore and Lord Wilcox were uninterested in the hustle and bustle and headed towards the main floor where the Lords of the realm would meet. They had done away with the House of Commons when the Commonwealth was built with the reasoning that most commoners now had become title holders and as the years turned into decades and centuries the new commoners were viewed as unreliable and too, well, common to understand the complexity of politics. As with most things the true meaning behind names in the new union meant nothing.
Suddenly a man appeared next to Lord Moore and fell in step with them. It was Lord Brandon Lafferty Earl of New Carrick. He wore his white hair long, tied in a ponytail at the neck, which was the stile amongst the Hibernian nobles and was in his official garb; dark green suit with an orange waist coat. Towering over the two other men, he was a perfect representative of his people in terms of height and build.
‘Lord Wilcox, Lord Moore it is nice to see you again Sirs’ Lord Lafferty said in a somber tone. The kind of tone Oliver Moore had become accustomed to since the disappearance of the S/S Jeff Lynne less than a fortnight ago.
‘Thank you Lord Lafferty’ Lord Moore replied and tried to match the somberness. ‘Back to work is the best remedy I find. It is what my father taught me.’ Lafferty nodded and gave a sound of approval.
‘So Brandon’ Lord Wilcox said with just the tiniest hint of a sigh. ‘Do you know what is on the docket for today?’ Making sure to change the subject.
‘Well naturally the main topic is the St. Odo Affair as it has come to be known’ Lord Lafferty went quiet as his two companions stopped to look at him. ‘Well, an unsavory name, I know. Trade business and The Young Lions have asked to present something or other.’
‘Bah, The Young Lions’ Lord Wilcox almost spat on the floor and Lord Lafferty felt as if he had dodged a bullet by mentioning the rebellious youngsters. ‘I’m sure I don’t know what they want, stirring up trouble and conflict within the ranks of the Commonwealth.’
‘It is enough to let them be heard during these sessions’ Lord Moore reflected. ‘There are other, more pressing matters to deal with and keep away from the media’ he nodded in the direction of the room that housed the journalists. ‘The noise of the Lions’ roaring drowns out the prowling of the leopard among the brush.’
‘Indeed’ Lord Wilcox smirked and puffed on his silver Vape pipe which he had produced during their walk. ‘The Diggers are doing their best to keep the incident out of the ears of the press and have so far managed well.’
They reached the large double doors that hid the Chamber of Commons and stopped. Two white clad men flanked the entrance and pulled the doors open and out stepped a man with long flowing whiskers and bushy eyebrows, dressed in a white suit and red vest identifying him as a nobleman of Anglia.
‘Lords Wilcox, Lafferty and Moore’ he revealed a smile under the mustache and nodded his head at the three men. ‘If you would be so kind as to wait I shall announce you presently.’
‘Naturally Lord Mahr’ Lord Moore replied and within a minute they were waved in.
‘That is odd’ Julia Bates said to herself and put her cup of tea to her mouth as she stared out of the great glass window that separated the press cantina from the Great Hall of the Protectorate.
‘What is that?’ said Rajit Kahn of The Indus Globe as he walked behind her.
‘Well if I’m not mistaken that is Sir Oliver Moore, Earl of New Crawford and by my count he has been absent from the Protectorate for two weeks.’ She swiped through her Nook Term to double check her facts. ‘And he was in the company of Lord Wilcox an unpleasant man during the best of circumstances.’
‘True’ Thomas Dansereau from The Explorer had sidled up next to her, apparently taking an interest in what she was saying. ‘The journey from New Essex to Londinium doesn’t quite go past Moore Manor’ he added.
Julia placed her cup on the windowsill and proceeded to tie her black hair in a ponytail, which she always did when she was getting down to business. She leaned up against one of the walls and continued to stare at the doors to the Hall of Commons as she let her fingers dance across the touchscreen of her Term. She pressed air through her tea stained teeth and traveled deep into her own mind.
‘What are you thinking?’ Dansereau sat down at a table behind her. ‘He was probably sick, it happens to the upper class as well.’
‘Do they though?’ She replied and returned her attention to the screen. Since the Exodus there had been great advances in medicine and most of the common illnesses, like the flu, the cold and the childhood disease had been eradicated, at least among the puros. Among the rudos, especially those who lived in the poorer and crowded parts of the nations were often afflicted by illness and often with devastating results since the doctor to patient ratio in those areas were several one to several thousands. Naturally sickness caused by a person drinking too much, eating spoiled food or even cancer still occurred, but was still fairly rare.
‘So he’s been absent for a fortnight, what does that matter?’ Dansereau was intrigued, she could hear it in his voice, but there was something else there; doubt with the slightest quiver of interest.
‘Lord Moore has never missed a day of the Protectorate being in session since his father passed away and he inherited the position.’ Bates continued to consult the Term. ‘In fact, the day his father was laid to rest he was here on the very same afternoon. For him to stay home fourteen days, well ten working days as it were, something must have been very important.’
‘And that would have been?’
‘What would keep a man of his stature home? Economic strife, maybe, servants acting up, unlikely, something with the manor, not very likely, then what? ‘
‘That would leave family matters.’ Dansereau tapped the coffee table with his long, unkempt nails. ‘His Lordship has two children and a wife, right?’
‘Correct.’ Bates looked at him. ‘A daughter and a son and there has been no mention of Lady Moore being ill or treated for an ailment.’
‘Actually.’ The baritone of Rajit Kahn joined the conversation and both Bates and Dansereau turned to him. ‘Lady Moore has been absent from several society engagements the past two weeks, including a gala dinner she herself had arranged right here at The New Savoy. Her husband attended though.’
‘Interesting’ both Dansereau and Bates replied in unison.
‘So is that the answer?’ Dansereau continued by himself. ‘He’s been caring for his ailing wife, who has been keeping her illness a secret from society.’ He placed his own cup on the table in front of him like an exclamation point, in his mind ending the discussion.
‘I don’t know about that.’ Bates raised an eyebrow. ‘I just can’t see a man of Lord Moore’s stature staying home on those grounds. Has he ever shown that kind of regard for anyone? We must keep in mind that the nobles rarely marry for love, to them it’s only business.’
‘So you’re saying that the nobility have no love in their hearts for their families?’ Dansereau leaned over the table and let his fingers glide across the rim of his cup.
‘Well I’m sure they feel some form of affection for their kin. Children probably more than partners, but I am highly doubtful that Lord Moore would stay home to care for his wife. I could be mistaken I guess…’ She drifted off as she continued to stare at the closed doors that kept her from the collected nobility of the Commonwealth.
‘I think you are.’ Dansereau grinned in a sly fashion. ‘Whatever it is The Young Lions have to say and the impact it might have on the Trade Council is more interesting than the comings and goings of a Calidonian Lord. Mark me, Griffiths and his cohorts will have our editors keeping us busy for the coming months.’
Jules nodded, but that feeling she got in her stomach when something wasn’t quite right was not convinced. There was a deeper mystery here and she had made up her mind not to rest until her curiosity was satisfied.