Genre: Science Fiction
Type of Story: Short Story
Summary: There’s trouble on the colony world Waconda as the time grows near to vote on the seat of government. Captain Jason Ayers and the Victory have to keep the peace. Is there more that Ayers can do or say to make the mission a success? First published in “Space Westerns,” March 16, 2008.
Captain Jason Ayers materialized in front of the temporary metal building that served as the seat of government for the colony world Waconda. It sat along a dusty street next to structures made of similar materials in a town called Ash City. But those buildings, unlike the one Ayers was to enter, just seemed more fixed in place and more part of a community.
Which, he mused, is supposed to be why Victory’s in orbit.
He pushed open the main door and walked through a modest maze of cubicles. He stopped in front of a semi-private office labeled “Colonial Governor.” He tapped on one side of the doorway and stepped through.
Governor Marcus Schultz, a balding man in a rumpled suit, looked up from his desk. “Yes? Oh, you must be Captain Ayers. I’m Governor Schultz.”
“Captain Jason Ayers, of the frigate Victory.”
Ayers shook Schultz’s hand. Schultz waved to the steel chair in front of his faux wood desk. Ayers sat down.
“I have to say, Governor, I was surprised that you called in a warship,” he said.
“Yes, well, Captain, I never thought I’d have to call in the military to monitor a colonial election.”
“How bad is the situation?”
“More troublesome than dangerous, but still beyond the marshal and his two deputies to control.”
“Your message was a bit sparse on details. Could you fill me in?”
“Of course, Captain. Back at the election for a permanent colonial capitol a few weeks ago, things just went a little crazy. The town of Orion won, and there was a bit of wild celebration there. Not quite a riot, but a mess all the same.”
“I suppose that happens on colony worlds sometimes.”
“Well, that’s not the least of it. It seems that there were numerous irregularities in the election.”
“Irregularities? You’re kidding.”
“No, Captain, I’m not. The main vote-comp in Orion was tampered with. It seems that someone printed up pre-made paper ballots, stuck those in the blank paper tray, then rigged it so ink never came out.”
“There’s more. Here in Ash City, about forty ballots were printed twice but with different identity numbers. There have been accusations that some people were kept from voting, while others that weren’t supposed to vote got to.”
“All that, just to get the capitol?”
“The leading folks in Ash City and Orion are real sharks, Captain. Most of them have been cruising the Federal Republic for business opportunities for years. The town that gets the capitol will be the hub of settlement. For men and women like them, it’s a great chance to make the fortune they’ve been searching for.”
“If the election’s over, Governor, why call us?”
“It’s not over, Captain. Your arrival is at almost exactly the right time. You see, the leaders of Ash City sued to keep the capitol from being moved. I’ve just heard from the circuit judge that her decision will be out within two hours. From what she asked, and considering the irregularities on both sides, everyone expects that she’ll throw out all the results and call for a new election.”
“Are you certain?”
“Fairly certain. Judge LaMorte suggested to me yesterday to call for a warship to help out. I doubt she’d make the suggestion if she wasn’t leaning towards a new election.”
“Probably not. What do you want us to do?”
“I’d like you to post some of your crew in the three main towns here, Ash City, Orion, and Chelsea. I don’t think the small outlying villages and settlements will need any coverage.”
“Post officers, to keep order?”
“Exactly. Just for today and tomorrow.”
“And that’s it?”
“No. I also want your crew to monitor the election. Check the machines before we move them out, once they’re set up, and during the balloting. Frankly, Captain, my worry is that without help things are going to get worse. It’s already tense. Who knows what these sharks will pull the second time around?”
“Well, Governor, as long as we’re in orbit, we’ll keep things from getting out of control.”
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