As predicted, Mal’s office was over a kilometre from the House. There was a shuttle service on a ten minute cycle though and the amazingly fat woman who was the Member for Regina told him that she found it just as easy to walk over.
‘Except in winter… This damn city don’t get snow, it gets ice storms. Fuckin beautiful when the sun comes out after, but a bloody menace underfoot. Also, you could get hit by a five kilo icicle dropping off a skyscraper.’
The entire route perhaps the entire city seemed to be made up of skyscrapers. Mal’s office, a small waiting room with a reception desk and a larger chamber with his own work station, a sitting area and a conference table was on the twenty-first floor of a forty story edifice which was just one of a dozen in the Parliamentary Circus.
He was assigned a personal assistant by the Herd’o’Cats caucus, Hiro Outlander, a Rim boy who explained that he was planning a career in the public sector.
‘I’m doing a gap year from academy. So I can only be with you for nine months,’ Hiro said. ‘But I’ve been here for long enough already to know most of the stuff you’l need. And I’ll help you find a replacement when the time comes.’
‘Can you help Kaylee find me a place to live?’
‘Certainly, Member. Will Mrs. Reynolds be staying on Londinium?’
‘No, she got her own work. And she goes by Kaylee Frye. She’ll want you to call her Kaylee, though.’
‘I’d suggest sharing with other bachelor Members then. Any preferences?’
‘My own room, a kitchen.. what else?’
‘Some prefer anglophone or sinophone flatmates. Some cook, others want meals delivered. Some prefer sharing with others of the same gender or sexuality. Some even like to share with Members from other parties. Keeps them from getting stale. Some are readers or use recreational drugs or follow sports fanatically….’
‘How do you work out all that?’
‘We have a questionnaire,’ Hiro said cheerfully.’ Please don’t lie on it. The Room Mate Agreement has a long history. It’s very thorough.’
The questionnaire took Mal fifteen minutes to complete, but Hiro found a good match within seconds. ‘Independents, readers, male, three bedrooms with accommodation for visiting partners, shared gathering space, seven Cortex screens, the feed is from RIM/Telekinetics so very reliable and with privacy shields, three ports in every private room, full kitchen, concierge and a restaurant in the building with 28/7 delivery. Your flatmates may be sly or trans, since you didn’t specify.’
‘Works. This’ gonna cost an arms and a leg, ain’t it?’
‘Nobody should go into politics to make money, sir. Between keeping two homes, transport and election costs you won’t even break even. My wages and some publicity costs are covered by the government, fortunately.’
‘Send Kaylee and Beege a wave to go inspect, and sign me up if they say it’ll suit. What’s next?’
‘You have an appointment with Ms. Wylie tomorrow at 1400, her office. And both of you with Leader Hassan at 1600.’
‘I got a purpose in this Parliamentary gig. I’ll need copies of my Bill sent to both ladies as soon as possible.’
‘Certainly,’ Hiro look doubtfully at the tick wad of paper.’ Would you like me t prepare a brief as well?’
‘What it sounds like. I’ll write a two page summary- including key words- and wave it to them. The keywords will link to the more detailed parts of the Bill.’
‘Umm. How long will it take?’
‘About a hundred pages here? And hour for reading and another to write the brief.’
Mal raised an eyebrow.
‘I’m very good at my job,’ Hiro smiled again.
Ada Wylie confessed she had only read the Brief of Mal’s Bill. ‘And that was one of thirty in my inbox this morning. I do have some questions…’
After an hour of discussion with several useful suggestions on improving wording and many on how to win supporters, the two Members passed the updated Bill to Wylie’s assistant for rewriting and distribution, with another two page Brief, to the two hundred Members and ten Senators who make up the Independent Caucus.
“We won’t worry about our sympathizers and allies yet. Let’s get the Caucus on side and take their suggestions.’
They walked together to the Leader’s Office in the West Block, nearly a kilometre away. The slightly fresher air and the exercise revived them both.
Mal tried very hard not to be impressed by the magnificence of he West Block entry. The domed ceiling of the Entry Hall soared five stories and was cross-hatched with lights trips. The floor was a map of the ‘Verse, moving majestically through the orbits of suns, planets and moons. Vidscreens showed various worlds, mostly Core, with one playing a description of terraforming.
‘What’s that for?’ complained Mal. ‘ In case some aliens land and want to know how we did it?’
‘School groups more likely. And from time to time a generation ship turns up. That vid is useful to the revived corpsicles.’
Wylie steered them towards the Office of the Leader of the Opposition. Scarcely less magnificent than the Entry, the Office comprised two floors of the building.
“The Core parties have been trading Government and Opposition off an on since forever. They see no reason not to be comfortable while they are out of power.’
‘Must’ve been a shock when the Independents took that place.’
‘Well, you know how many recounts were demanded. Even though the Vanguard outnumbers the Herd three to one.’ she snorted. ‘An I’m for damn sure the Vanguard are trying to cut a few weaklings out from the Herd, even.’
‘Leader Hassan will see you now, Members,’ said a stately white-haired woman, escorting them into Felicia Hassan’s suite.
They were meeting in a small sitting room, with comfortable chairs and many flowers. Hassan was from Greenleaf where the plant life, both cultivated and wild, was lush. Mal had sold parrot embryos from the Rio de Janiero generation ship to a bird fancier there.
‘Captain Reynolds,’ Felicia Hassan said. Mal could feel the charisma that had made her Leader of the disparate elements that made up the Independent Party. ‘The hero of Serenity Valley, of Miranda, and head of Alleyne Reynolds Transport. one of the most respected freight companies on the Rim.’
‘Not head, part owner with Zoe Washburne and Perseus Alleyne. And my boy is running the business now. I’m just a rancher.’
‘Most believe you are still the brains of the company. Why Alleyne Reynolds and not more truthfully Reynolds Alleyne?’
‘Both Zoe an her brother are better at business than me. Also, initials.’
‘Initials? Yes, I suppose most would prefer to do business with ART than with RAT. To business, I think. Ada tells me you are promoting an interesting change in salvage laws.’
‘You saw my…Brief?’
‘Yes. My staff looking at the full document now for problems . But the basic concept is good. I think it will be part of our platform policy focus this session. I think it will find no little support among the Border members even in the Alliance parties.’
‘Good to hear.’
‘Because of your interest, I’d like to put you on the Trade and Transport Committee. It’s a lot of work for a newcomer. I hope you are a fast reader.’
‘I got no distractions here any road.’
‘Good, Ada, thank you for bringing the Captain in.’
She rose and walked them to the door.
As Mal stepped back to hold the outer door of Ada Wylie. he glimpsed a little pantomime between the stately receptionist and a younger woman, one fanning herself and the other holding her hand to her forehead. ‘Overload!’ whispered the younger woman. Mal grinned.