The Proving

The Proving by Ken Brosky Read Free Book Online

Book: The Proving by Ken Brosky Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ken Brosky
although he wished he could get inside Armando’s head. They’d been on three dates — what, exactly, did Armando want? In just a few short months, Gabriel would no doubt be whisked away to University, maybe in another city entirely.
    And that was the death knell of any relationship. Mag-rail trips between the cities were expensive. Shields, Spartan guards, limited space . . .
    “He’s a building designer,” Gabriel said, shaking away the other thoughts. “Parliament wants the first colony on New Earth to have a good number of architects. Price is a good choice, although he does obsess over detail.” He grunted. “He’ll drive some of the colonists mad.”
    “And now democracy rears its ugly head.” Armando leaned forward, watching the thrall of delegates move from row to row, arguing and speaking heatedly in ever-growing groups.
    “It’s slow,” Gabriel said. “But it’s also beautiful. The free people are selecting twenty thousand volunteers. Another forty thousand will be selected from the lottery. Each of the three clans gets to pick five thousand of their own. It’s as fair a process as you can expect when you’re planning an emergency colonization.”
    “Oh? And you know this for a fact, even though it’s never been done?”
    Gabriel rolled his eyes. “What I mean is the decision was made fairly, and by representatives of Parliament. It’s as good as democracy gets.”
    “Except for those who get a free pass,” Armando said slyly. “People like you who are much too important to leave behind.”
    Gabriel snorted. He grabbed his cup, thumbing the bio-plastic lid. “You won’t see me on the Ark. I have no intention of ever abandoning this planet.”
    “Are you crazy? You have a chance to make history!” Armando held up a hand, spelling out a news headline: “Parliamentary Golden Boy Elected First Premier of New Earth.”
    “Sounds horrible.”
    “Sounds amazing. Though what if the Ark travels through its wormhole thingy and it turns out the planet’s not ready yet?” Armando laughed. He had such a sinister sense of humor. “All those hundreds of thousands of terraforming bots we sent through are just sitting around, arguing amongst themselves like our delegates here. Oh, were we supposed to convert the air? I don’t know about that. Do you know, Robot-Two? I thought I was in charge of building soil, Robot-One.”
    “I hope Clan Persia doesn’t have any bots that talk to one another,” Gabriel said. “That kind of AI is forbidden.”
    Armando gently squeezed the back of his neck. “You’re too uptight.”
    “I’m supposed to be uptight. I’m important , remember?”
    “So you have no interest in colonizing New Earth. You have no interest in exploring the new world. You have no interest in living Specter-free . No interest in watching elephants and mastodons and tigers and rabbits frolic to their hearts’ content.”
    Gabriel laughed. “It all sounds wonderful. But I’d rather save this planet first. I don’t know. It feels like we’re giving up.”
    The chime rang again. The crowd silenced. Molambique was still standing in the stage below. She waved a hand and the remaining whispers died down. “There is news from outside the protected city of Lakota. A Coterie has repaired the mag-rail transport line from Lakota to Neo Berlin, but has returned this troubling footage.”
    She stepped back. A hologram appeared above the stage, revealing a dark forest with just a hint of a reddish glow, as if one of the trees was on fire. Gabriel leaned over the rail, watching. The footage was clearly from the camera on someone’s smartglasses, shaking as the person scrambled to take cover behind a quartet of boulders. There was no sound, or if there was, it was deathly silent.
    “Now what’s all this,” Armando whispered.
    Suddenly, a Sebecus Specter slipped through the trees like a ghost, walking on all fours. Its long tail swung from side to side as if it were a fish’s tail,

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