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Husband, father, and writer working on a short story project and submitting my novel, The Windsmith, to agents.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bonus Story: Life and Times of Aries Webb, Epilogue

Here it is! The final part of my NaNoWriMo novel, the Life and Times of Aries Webb! I hope you all enjoyed it. I had fun writing it. :)

And with this post, that means I have one more story to write for this week, to be posted on Sunday, that will mark my 52nd Short Story, and the end of this entire project. Wow. Hard to believe. Stay tuned to see what get's posted! Meanwhile, enjoy the final bit of Aries Webb.

***


Epilogue

Aries looked down at his world from the top of Olympus Mons. How it had changed from his last climb. The city below was now larger, and other cities were close by. There were more clouds in the sky, and he could see water from the lakes that were forming on the planet. There were even a few patches of green here and there. Nothing so grand as a forest, but these were fields of lichen that could survive on the thin atmosphere of the red planet.

“Wow,” Zita said from behind him. “This really is a spectacular view. Thanks for bringing me up here.”

“No problem, honey,” he said. Being outside the domes, they were wearing their space suites, special ones designed for climbing. “I like to come out here when I need some place quiet to think. The last time I was up here was just before I ran for Governor of Mars.”

“Which, of course, lead to you being Prime Minster,” she laughed. “Its really too bad you couldn't’ come up here more.”

“Pressures of the job,” he said. “As you know, it was very difficult to get away from the desk.”

“Well, running a whole planet takes a lot of work,” she said.

“And time away from the important things in my life,” he said, turning to look at he. She smiled. She really was a beautiful girl.

“Don’t worry, Dad,” she said. “They’ll pass the vote. They have to. One man in power this long, and it starts to become a dictatorship and not a democracy. They learned that in America centuries ago, I don’t think we need to discover it ourselves for real.”

“Oh, I’m sure they will, honey,” he said. “I’m sure they will. It’s just a big deal, so I come out here to get some space.”

“Plenty of space here,” she said. “Look, is that Phobos?”

Aries looked up to where she was pointing in the sky to a bright star. “Yup,” he said. “I always loved looking at the moons in the day. It’s not often one can do that on Earth.”

“Yeah,” she said. She did like her home world, but the moon on Earth was just so much bigger and made for a stunning sight at night.

“Come on,” Aries said. “Lets finish setting up camp. I want to get to that dinner.”

“You mean before Anthony calls, right?” Zita said.

Aries laughed. “Are you kidding? He’s been calling me all day. I shut my phone off at the start of the climb. I told him to call you when the vote comes in.”

“Oh, great,” Zita said. “Thanks, Dad.”

The two laughed and returned to setting up camp.

****

“This speech is fantastic,” Aries said, looking over the words on his ePad. “Your best yet, Ho.”

The short, heavy set Chinese man bowed.

“Thank you, Minister,” he said in Chinese. “I thought that such an august and historic occasion needed something that would be remembered by future generations.”

“Well, this sure is it,” Aries said, switching to Chinese. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’ll make a few minor changes. You know, just to make it more my own words, but nothing major.”

“Of course, Minister,” Ho said. “I would expect nothing less. I look forward to reading your revisions.”

“Thank you, Ho. That will be all,” Aries said.

“Thank you for your time, Mr. Prime Minister,” Ho said, bowing again and leaving the room.

Aries sighed. Ho was probably the most talented speech writer he had ever had, but the man was so formal and trapped in outdated methods of formality that it often made it difficult to work with him. He looked at the speech again. It truly was a fine speech, one that would be quoted and reread by future generations. It was sometimes awe inspiring to see history in action. And Aries had been in his fare share of historical moments. He just needed to make a few minor tweaks to make it less formal and more him. He’d done this before, and Ho would be obviously uncomfortable, but agree.

“Knock knock,” came a voice from the door. “May I have a moment, Mr. Prime Minister?”

“I tried to stop him, sir,” Anthony said, pushing the man in the fancy business suit out of the way. “But you know how Charles is.”

“It’s okay, Anthony,” Aries said. “I have a few moments available to talk to Charles.”

Anthony nodded and left, closing the door behind him.

“So, to what do I owe this visit, Chuck?” Aries said, motioning for his visitor to take a seat.

“You know I hate it when you call me that,” Charles said. “And I’m just here for one thing. To congratulate you. I wasn’t sure that the bill was going to pass, to be honest. These people seem to want you to be Prime Minster for life, and maybe even pass the job onto your daughter when all is said and done. A real monarchy, right here on Mars.”

“Yes, well, you know that I never wanted that,” Aries said.

“Yes,” Charles said. “And as much as I admire you, and am glad you were there for Mars when we needed you, I do think it’s time for some new leadership for Mars. We can make it on our own now, do more than survive, and we need leaders that will think about more than survival.”

“I’m not the campaign trail, Charles,” Aries said. “There’s no need for rhetoric here. But if you’re here to get my endorsement, you already know my answer. I can’t. I won’t. This election, the first real election since we voted for independence, has to be unbiased. The people should choose their next leader, not me. That was the whole point of my bill in the first place. I didn’t just want to limit terms on the Prime Minister’s office, but ensure that the next Minister wasn’t someone hand picked by the last.”

“I appreciate that, Aries,” Charles said. “I really do. It’s honestly one of the reasons you made such a good leader. I was hoping, however, that you migth change your mind. Ah well. I’m still ahead in the polls, even if only slightly.”

“I wish you the best of luck, Charles,” Aries said.

“Any chance I can count on your vote?” Charles asked as he stood up.

Aries laughed and showed his friend to the door. He asked Anthony to cancel his next appointment so he cold have time to breath for a moment. Charles was a good man, he thought as he sat back down at his desk to work on the script. So was his opponent in the upcoming Prime Minster election, Mrs. Rebbecca Cho. Unlike Charles, she wasn’t a current member of congress, but she did have a lot of experience leading, being the current CEO of the Martian Technical Institute, still the largest employer on Mars. He would be happy for either one of them to take over after he left. Mars would be in good hands.

He just had to remind himself of that. It was so easy to believe that the world really was his, in the sense that he owned it. The passing of the bill and the upcoming election made him realize that getting away from Mars was a good thing. He needed some distance, some perspective. And he needed to find those things he had discovered were truly important.

****

“Come on, Dad,” Zita said, shoving some of her dad’s clothing into the large suit case. “It’s the right thing to do. You know it, I know it... even Uncle Bo knows it, and he’s literally a whole world away!”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve just... well, I’ve never left you alone before.”

“Dad, I spent an entire summer on Earth with grandma, remember?” she said.

“That was different,” he said. “You were with your grandma in her lab.”

“I’ll be with her here, in my house,” she said. “And granddad will be with his time time. I’ll be okay. I’m in High School, for Mars’ sake, I can take care of myself. I’ve even got a job lined up for the summer already, remember? I’ll be working at Solar Tech, making robots.”

“Robots,” Aries shivered. “I still hate the little things. Give me the creeps.”

“But, they do bring in a lot of money,” she said. “And I get to be in near the beginning of one of the biggest industrial trends since... portable music players!”

“I agree, honey, it’s all very exciting,” he said. “I’m just... scared. I’m scared. I hate to admit that do my own daughter, but there you have it. I’m scared.”

Zita closed the suit case and walked across the room to her dad. She looked him in the eye, and started to tear up. He pulled her close to him on the bed and hugged her.

“I’m scared too, Dad,” she said. “Everything is changing for me. Everything. I’m no longer living in the PM’s Mansion. Not that this place isn’t fantastic, but it’s just not home... it was always our place to go to escape. And then, in a few days, there will be a whole new Prime Minister. That’s pretty scary, you’ve been the Prime Minister my whole life. And then to top it off, you’re leaving. Finally leaving to do what it is you’ve probably wanted to do for a long time, something I’ve selfishly asked you to do since I was a little girl. You’re going to go get Mom, how ever long that takes you.”

“I’m going to be living with Grandma,” she continued. “And I’ll be starting High School. It’s scary. I don’t want you to go. funny that. You’re finally doing the one thing I always wanted you to do, go get Mom, and now I don’t want you to leave. I want my dad to be here when some of the biggest changes ever happen in my life. But at the same time, I know that what you’re doing is important. It’s always been important. I get that. I want you to go, because I still want you to find Mom. This is the right thing to do. It really is. And you and I, we’ll get over being scared, because we have to. Because we know that the other will be waiting for us at the other side of this, and we’ll have Mom with us and be a family again.”

Aries wiped the tears from his own eyes before doing the same from hers. He hugged his daughter close to him and kissed her on the top of her head.

“I am so lucky to have such a fantastic daughter,” he said. “I love you so much.”

“I love you too, Dad,” she said. The, she disengaged from the hug and stood up, trying to look serious through the tears still running down her cheek.

“Now, come on, you need to sleep,” she said. “Tomorrow is the day you officially pass over leadership of Mars to the new Prime Minster. And two days after that, you get on your ship heading to Earth. Lots to prepare for.”

“You’re almost as bad as Anthony,” Aries said. “But you’re right. I’ll see you in the morning.”

She smiled and left Aries to his thoughts.

“Good night, Dad,” she said.

****

“Well, I guess this is it,” Aries said, looking back towards the city from the window of the space port. “My list view of Olympus Mons.”

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic, Son,” Charles Webb said, slapping Aries on the back. “Or were you trying to be poetic? I never can tell.”

“I have never, in my life, been poetic, Dad,” Aries said, giving his dad a wry smile. The two walked away from the window to join Ju and Zita at the table. It wasn't much of a last dinner, eating at the space port diner, but it was better than nothing. He was grateful that his family joined him today.

“I don’t know,” Charles said. “You were pretty poetic when you first met Amelia.”

“I remember,” Ju said. She winked at Zita, and Aries rolled his eyes. His parents were trying to embarrass him in front of his daughter again. “He used to write these horrible love poems to your mother, and then throw them away before ever showing them to her. I don’t know that Amelia ever saw a one of them.”

“She saw one,” Aries said. “exactly one. And that’s all she is ever going to see. Those were horrible. I’m not a poet, never was.”

“Only one?” Zita said. “Dad, that’s a crime! It’s too bad you don’t have them anymore, I’m sure Mom would love to see them when she gets back.”

“Oh, she still can,” Ju said, and Aries looked at her sharply. “I rescued all the ones he had written at our house and saved them. I figured that any woman that could move my son to poetry deserved to see exactly what effect she had on the poor man.”

Zita, Ju and Charles all laughed, and after a few moments, even Aries joined in. It felt good to laugh, on the moment of his leaving. He couldn’t help but escape the feeling that this was somehow final, like he was never returning to Mars. He knew that wasn’t true, but he had only ever been off Mars a few times, and most of them were on diplomatic missions in his role as Prime Minister. And he hated traveling in space every single time.

They ate and laughed and told stories about Amelia to Zita, who had almost no memories of her mother. That saddened Aries, but she told him not to worry. She looked forward to making all new ones once Mom was back, even if it took another ten years to make it happen. Finally, the call for his flight came over the loudspeaker. He gave everyone hugs and kisses, and all four of them shed tears. He walked down the hall to the airlock of the space ship that would carry him away from his home to Earth, saying one more good bye as he did.

“I’ll be back, Mars,” he whispered. “And I’ll be bringing my other love with me.”

****

The last four days of the trip to Earth should have been very relaxing for Aries. All his calls to the new Prime Minister were done. All the arrangements had been made for meetings once he reached Earth. He had no more responsibilities except to enjoy himself. This ship boasted a pool and a casino, too, so he had plenty of diversions to entertain himself with. Instead, he spent the time concerned. He planed and plotted and grew concerned that things would fall apart. So he planned and plotted some more. Finally, he tossed all his plans aside, realizing that there wasn’t really anything he could do.

But he just couldn’t relax, either. He was so close. He knew where his wife we being held. He had contact with her father, the man in charge of her prison. His best friend, Bo Wu, was waiting for his arrival. There wasn’t anything he could do form the ship, but he wanted to do something! Entertainment, relaxing, they just seemed... wrong. At least, until he had Amelia by his side again. And so, the last four days of his trip were spent in unbridled anxiety and much pacing.

Finally, the trip was over, and the space ship landed. The Earth star port at Dallas was far larger than the one on Mars, and featured a full dozen landing pads, with ships leaving and returning all the time, as opposed to Mars’ two pads. He still had trouble with how much bigger things were on Earth. Then, he saw his best friend, a tall, bald Chinese man in a black trench coat and duster. He looked like a modern cowboy, which made Aries smile. He could remember the time when the young Chinese man embraced communism, and the thought of American cowboys would send him into tizzy fits. The two clasped each other on the back and hugged. It had been years since they had been face to face. After a few moments, they released each other, and Bo smiled at him.

“Come on,” he said. “Let’s go get Amelia.”

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