Adele Mundy

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    Adele Mundy

    – Mid-2100s, Earth starts star travel

    Training in Library, Archive and Records Administration necessarily instills a need to keep track of events, and I am, to this day, enough of a Librarian that it seems necessary to me to spend part of my off-duty time assembling this collection of personal notes; whether anyone will ever be interested in them is immaterial.

    All the factual data I use are available through USFP Central Citizens Registration Office, of course. The rest may be subject to personal interpretation, imperfect memory and subconscious bias.

    I shall start with the Mundy side of the family, and go no further than grandparents, because, well, one has to start somewhere, but it seems irrelevant to go back further than the beginning of Terran star travel.

    – 2146 Frederick Cornelius Mundy born on Earth.

    Frederick Cornelius Mundy, my paternal grandfather, was born on St. Helena, on Earth, in 2146. The fact that the tourist industry on the island still centres on Napoleon’s exile is probably one of the factors that influenced his lifelong interest in Napoleonic history. However, Grandad Fred’s real talent was in applied physics and engineering, and even though online education was the norm at the time, he soon felt the need to leave the island and attend an established university campus, where he could interact directly with professors and researchers, and have access to more advanced equipment than the island college could provide. He was awarded his degree when he was barely twenty, and he was immediately hired by one of the companies involved in the development of starship engines.

    – 2150 Adelaide Caroline Mundy born on Earth

    My great-aunt Adelaide Caroline Mundy, the Admiral my fellow-officers joke about, was my grandfather’s younger sister, born in 2150. As I understand, her passion was sailing, and she undertook her formal education as a necessary, unavoidable evil. This changed when she became interested in mathematics as she realised that she could use trigonometry for navigation without the use of electronics; and she also started tinkering with engines, prompted by her brother’s theoretical interests, into a more practical direction – any engines, boat, land vehicle, aircraft. She, too, left the island, intending to go no further than the South African dockyards. She found her way to the space docks instead.

    But I’m getting ahead of myself.

    – 2166 Frederick Cornelius Mundy marries Joan Sutton.

    There’s a whole story behind that sentence, and I only know part of it. I know Grandma Joan was a financial and marketing consultant with one of the big multinational companies. I know she was an intelligent woman, because I remember talking to her. She had her little fixations, (a strange obsession with the aristocracy is the one I remember best; I attribute it to her being brought up by her single father, in a depressed neighbourhood. She made her own way out by her brains and her willpower, and in her early career she saw too many examples of privileged contemporaries wasting resources they took for granted) but she had a sharp mind, and, to judge from her portraits and vid records, she was also a fine looking, elegant woman.

    Frederick and Joan had a whirlwind affair, as I understand it. They met in 2166, and within weeks they both resigned from their safe, well-paying jobs, they got married, and they founded their own company, Trafalgar Tech. Yes, Grandad Fred chose the name. He provided the innovations, Grandma Joan was in charge of the financial side, and together they patented and sold his engine improvements to the spacefaring companies that were springing up.

    – 2170 Adelaide Caroline Mundy takes a job as a technician on a commercial space vessel.

    Great-Aunt Adelaide had been training on the job, in the engine hangars of the spaceport. An acquaintance who worked on an independent trader ship mentioned that they needed a tech on board, and she took the post. Halcyon was the ship. Great-Aunt Adelaide never went back to Earth.

    Adele Mundy

    – 2175 Terran-Kralien war over New Lhasa.

    We all know about the New Lhasa incident from the history books, so I don’t need to go into detail, apart from adding that, as many other space-related companies did, Trafalgar Tech enjoyed a great boost from the war effort, as finances flowed into anything relating to space travel and space warfare. So the company expanded, and my grandparents made the leap from successful to wealthy.

    – 2175 Adelaide Caroline Mundy resigns from her civilian job and volunteers to join the TSN.

    At the same time, Great-Aunt Adelaide decided she had to do her part to defend human space. She joined as enlisted personnel, taking the tech path, and not considering a career as an officer. It seems that the career considered her.

    Adele Mundy

    – 2177 Cornelius Horatio Mundy born to Frederick C. Mundy and Joan Sutton on the passenger liner Positron, on route to Paragon, Titan System, Rhea Sector.

    As a result of the New Lhasa incident, Trafalgar Tech expanded out of Earth, establishing manufacturing plants and research facilities on several Terran colony worlds. My grandparents were on route to Paragon, in the Titan System in Rhea Sector, partly to consider setting up a branch there, but partly as a vacation, celebrating their success and the imminent arrival of their first child. My father (named Cornelius, after his father’s second name, and Horatio, after Nelson) was actually born a little earlier than planned, on board the passenger liner Positron as it approached Paragon and its moon, Exemplar.

    Paragon was an odd planet: superficially similar to Earth in many ways, and suitable for Terran life with very little modification, it was colonised early and with little fanfare, by a group of fugitives who, if their version of history has not been distorted by time, distance and subjective perception, believed themselves persecuted for their unusual genetic heritage. More colonists arrived over time, but their influx was always small, and Paragon remained something of a backwater.

    Something about Paragon must have appealed to my grandparents, because as a centre of business operations it was not exactly ideal. It was remote from the main routes, and its population was still relatively small. The main city on one continent was called, unimaginatively enough, Paragon City. There were the Rogue Isles, once picturesque, but already by my grandparents’ arrival they might be best described as a wretched hive of scum and villainy. There was Praetoria, the gleaming capital city of a state that disguised its totalitarian government as a benevolent dictatorship, while outlawed rebels lurked in its sewers. There were vast, beautiful, dangerous oceans. And the people of Paragon were a strange mix, colonists from the earliest days of space travel, some of them with outrageous stories that smacked of myth more than history; more recent arrivals in search of an old-fashioned Earth-like environment; and entrepreneurs who saw Paragon’s distance from the USFP hubs as a way to escape excessive regulation – or, for some, regulation of any sort at all.

    Still, there were great minds on Paragon, and a sense that anything was possible. Within a short time after their arrival, my grandparents decided they would stay.

    Adele Mundy

    – 2178 Frederick Cornelius Mundy with his wife Joan Sutton (and their son Cornelius Horatio) settle on Paragon

    When my grandparents decided that Paragon was going to be their family home, they didn’t do things by halves. They bought offices in Atlas Park for the company headquarters and applied to City Hall for permits, then bought warehouses in King’s Row, laboratories in Steel Canyon, manufacturing facilities in Terra Volta. They bought a city house in Founders’ Falls; then they bought land on the outskirts of Salamanca, a small town outside Paragon City but reachable by its light rail system, and hired architects to build their home on the estate.

    Meanwhile, they became part of the Paragon business community, and established partnerships with several local companies, including Crey Industries, one of the leading tech firms on the planet.

    – 2180 Frederick Cornelius Mundy buys the title of Baron Chatsworth from the City of Salamanca.

    I wonder sometimes whether it was the partnership with Crey that prompted my grandfather to buy his Barony from the City of Salamanca. After all, since the owner of Crey Industries was Countess Crey, it seemed appropriate, as one of her main business partners, to have a comparable title. I also wonder whether it was in fact my grandmother’s idea: Clarissa van Dorn, the orphan, had become a Countess by marrying Alphonse Crey; why shouldn’t Joan Sutton, the working-class daughter of a single dad, become a Baroness? So in 2180 Grandad Fred bought his title, and became Frederick Cornelius Mundy, first Baron Chatsworth, and Grandma Joan read etiquette books and became obsessed with the proper number of courses to serve, and which knife and fork to use for each one.

    The architects came up with a design in the Palladian style which met with the Baroness’ approval, and Chatsworth House was built in record time on the idyllic wooded grounds outside Salamanca. It’s a shame that the surveyors did not think to venture a little further into the woods at night, for they might have recommended an alternate location for the residence – one that did not require quite such an elaborate security system against the denizens of the place.

    – 2197 The Hon. Cornelius Horatio Mundy starts work in the family company, Trafalgar Tech, while continuing, then completing his education at Paragon University.

    My father (Grandma Joan insisted on us calling him Papa, with a French accent, in true English 19th century fashion; and she wanted to be called Grandmama, with a French accent also; needless to say, we conveniently forgot that whenever we could get away with it) occasionally told us tales of his idyllic childhood on the Chatsworth estate, playing with “children from the town” who, I assume, had been brought in specially for his amusement. I think our own childhood was equally privileged; idyllic is not exactly the word, when you know that the gardeners supposedly pruning the hedge just a few yards away from where you are playing are in fact more than competent in the use of the rifles that are propped up just beside the rake and the secateurs. Still, we grew familiar with the behaviour of the Fir Bolg and the Tuatha, and it seemed obvious to us that one did not venture into the pumpkin fields or into the woods at night – not unless one was armed, and preferably not alone. On the other hand, the tales of the Skulls and the Hellions in the city left us perplexed: how did one deal with a human menace? But I am rushing forward too fast again.

    I was going to say that my father, though his professional interest was nano-tech, picked up Grandfather’s hobby of Terran Napoleonic history; so, while Chatsworth was equipped with all the necessary electronics for security, utility and entertainment, they were usually disguised as something that would not look out of place in 1815 or thereabouts, or could conveniently disappear inside cabinets, behind panels and paintings, or under inlaid desk surfaces. The Chatsworth library shelves housed a collection of paper books, though the main desk also had a terminal with a proper holo-projector, and a connection to Paragon City Library; the kitchens had a wood-fired range as well as the usual selection of induction and micro-wave units, and a full assortment of fabricators and processors hidden away behind flame-beech cabinet doors.

    I remember the flame-beeches lining the streets of Salamanca, glowing redder and redder as the twilight deepened. Then, sometimes, some of the flames were real, as the pumpkin-headed Fir Bolg woke up at nightfall. And sometimes the trees glowed green with floating ghosts… It doesn’t seem real. It shouldn’t be real. There are no ghosts. But Paragon was an odd place, and there are theories that what some people saw as supernatural creatures and effects were the remains of the planet’s native life, after it was settled; or cross-breeds with the species the colonists introduced; or mutations. There are years’ worth of research papers into the genetics of Paragon inhabitants… Or at least, there were, in Paragon Library. They were never released into the general USFP library system, because the general consensus was that they would attract unwanted attention. The descendants of the original Paragon colonists still harboured the memory of an event they called The Inhuman Purge, and the City employees in G.I.F.T. were adamant that all mutants should enjoy the same full protection as other citizens.

    I have drifted away from my timeline again. I am out of practice at writing academic papers, and the subject matter is too close to my personal concerns for me to be objective yet. I may go through everything and edit, once I’ve finished. Or I may consider this an exorcism of my personal ghosts, and leave it alone, with all its inaccuracies and imperfections.

    Adele Mundy

    – 2199 The Hon. Cornelius Horatio Mundy marries Dr. Isabelle Chakravarthi, bio-chemist at Crey Industries.

    And this is where I should introduce my mother, Dr. Isabelle Chakravarthi. I know little about her parents’ history, other than that they were on the first colonists’ ship, and their Terran ancestry came from India. Nani Hasmita was a physics teacher, Nana Phanishankar was a software designer. They never talked to me about why they left Earth, and any mention of the Purge would lead to an immediate change of subject, usually through an offer of food or tea.

    I have seen recordings of my parents’ wedding, a mix of atheist and Hindu ceremony, with flowers and saris and dark ceremonial suits, tall white collars, pale waistcoats, and top hats. It could have been something out of the Raj, except for the fact that the fountains of Founders’ Falls were sparkling in the background.

    – 2200 Frederick Cornelius Mundy, first Baron Chatsworth, dies.

    My grandfather died before my older sister was even born. He was middle-aged and in fine health, working with enthusiasm and not even thinking about retiring. He had been visiting a Crey facility as part of the latest collaborative project between Trafalgar Tech and Crey Industries, when something caused an explosion which partially destroyed the lab building, leaving five people dead and seven seriously injured, with dozens more lightly injured. In a statement to the media, an icily calm Countess Crey claimed the explosion could not have been an accident, but must have been a Nemesis plot. She promised thorough internal investigations and full collaboration with Paragon Police Department. No evidence ever came to light.

    Nemesis, I haven’t mentioned him yet. He was one of those semi-mythical figures, supposedly a brilliant scientist (another one) gone criminally insane, a megalomaniac genius obsessed with robots, artificial intelligence and the preservation of the human mind through bio-mechanical means. And ruling the world, of course. The toy shops sold Nemesis masks as well as Arachnos masks at Hallowe’en, and a toy Nemesis staff that whirled and made the expected whooshing noise was a prized possession of my little brother, especially because Dad disapproved.

    As my grandfather’s only child, my father inherited the company, all its holdings, the Chatsworth estate and all other property, and the title of second Baron Chatsworth.

    Adele Mundy

    – 2203 the Hon. Hasmita Joan Mundy-Chakravarthi, heir to Chatsworth estate and titles, born at Chatsworth House, to Baron Cornelius Horatio Mundy and his wife Isabelle Chakravarthi.

    Hasmita was my older sister, named for our maternal and paternal grandmothers so they would both be happy. She had big dark eyes like our mother, and our mother’s sense of humour, and, with time, it turned out she had Mother’s interest in bio-chemistry, as well.

    2207 Adele Sophie Mundy-Chakravarthi born at Chatsworth House, on Paragon.

    And that’s me. Having run out of grandmothers to name me after, they called me after my great-aunt, and she actually came to Paragon to see me soon after I was born. Great-Aunt Adelaide had had quite a career by that time, she had risen through the ranks as one war followed another, had become an officer, and by the time I was born she had her own command. Over the years that followed, she would turn up on Paragon from time to time, when shore leave coincided with her presence in a near enough sector. Grandma Joan, who continued living in Chatsworth with us, was not that fond of Great-Aunt Adelaide, but the house was large enough that the two of them could easily avoid each other except at mealtimes. And mealtimes would then be particularly elaborate, “in honour of your Captain Aunt”, Grandma would say; to annoy our Captain Aunt, in reality, because Great-Aunt Adelaide grew bored over long-protracted meals, and looked at the array of silver and crystal as a nuisance best reserved for dinners at the Admiralty. And occasionally she resorted to recounting particularly involved naval engagements, which necessitated the employment of glasses, spoons and salt cellars to depict the ships involved, and even, horror of horrors, the scattering of bread crumbs from one glass to another to trace the path of missiles.

    That was later, of course. I keep conflating memories of events that happened all through my childhood.

    – 2210 Horatio Rajeev Mundy-Chakravarthi born at Chatsworth House, on Paragon.

    I was three when my little brother was born. I didn’t pay much attention to him, he was a baby, and therefore boring, except when he was being noisy. Mother looked after him, with the assistance of Angie, who had looked after both Hasmita and me when we were babies; and then with the assistance of the rest of the staff, and the A.I. systems.

    Little Horatio… Hasmita and I called him The Little Horror when he was beginning to crawl, because he would manage to break whatever he could reach, and he could throw the most monstrous tantrums if anyone attempted to remove whatever object he had grabbed. He continued to prove his destructive talent as he started to walk, and as his dexterity increased, so did his ability to inflict damage to his surroundings. I remember a number of nannies, tutors, and other staff, constantly following him around trying to prevent disasters. I may be exaggerating, merging episodes into a constant stream of events. There’s one person who can contradict me, and he’s not talking to me.

    Adele Mundy

    [- 2212 Unukalhai uprising]

    [We barely heard the faintest news about it, on Paragon. At least, that’s what I thought later, when I started reading about history. At the time I was a child, and entirely uninterested in distant political unrest. But though the uprising was mentioned only briefly in official texts, there were ripples, if one thought about it, and looked carefully. With hindsight, one can see that the posters declaring “Earth for Humans” and “They Are Among Us” were signs of Unukalhai disaffection, even on Paragon, among that mutant-rich mix of people that should have led to tolerance and understanding.]

    There is a long gap of years to cover, and memories of childhood can easily descend into hagiography, but some things are the foundation blocks of the people we became. Without the stones, there is no arch.

    We had a ridiculously large number of people and machines looking after us as we grew, even when Mother insisted that we should go to school in Salamanca, and not be educated at home like our father had been. He objected. She won. He pointed out that there was no need to send us away from the safety of Chatsworth, driving to town and back every day, and we could even attend the Salamanca school virtually, and gain all the same benefits. She insisted that interaction with children our own age was more important than any data we might learn from the education programs. I am sure, to this day, that he did not fully agree, but he acquiesced. He did insist, however, that we should learn “proper sports” at home, and Mother felt there would be no harm in that.

    I am happy to say that “proper sports” did not include cricket. Possibly only because that would have needed enough people to form a team, or even two – and who knows, perhaps he was thinking of perfecting some robots to play, because, after all, if Nemesis can build robots that shoot rifles, why wouldn’t it be possible to build robots to play cricket? We may have been saved by the fact that Father was usually too busy with work to spend enough time designing cricked-playing robots. However, “proper sports” did include horse riding, sailing (swimming was a prerequisite, for safety, but not considered important in itself), fencing, and shooting. I am remarkably well qualified to fight in a Napoleonic war…

    The horses were right there. There were stables on the estate, and grooms, and riding instructors. Going out to play usually included going to or through the stables anyway, and we had been toddling our way around there since we learned to walk, so each of us in turn had a pony, and then a horse. Hasmita was the best of us three: yes, she was the eldest, so she had already been riding for a while when I started to learn, but she had a way with horses, and seemed always to understand what their behaviour meant; while they, in turn, seemed always to understand exactly what she wanted of them. Horatio, in contrast, was impatient and heavy-handed, and the horses did what they were required because they were trained to do so, but would try to get away with any small rebellions that bit and bridle might allow.

    Put Horatio on a mechanical vehicle of any sort, though, and he was in his element. He barely used a tricycle at all, and went straight to a bicycle, doing things that terrified the staff (our parents, most of the time, were at work and didn’t see) like riding down the marble banisters from one terrace to the next, and jumping down from stair to stair. Hasmita could do dressage on a horse; Horatio could have done dressage on a bike, I swear, except that it would have been too slow for him. The minute he was allowed on powered vehicles – no, let’s be honest, he found ways to get on powered vehicles long before he was actually allowed to – that was where he wanted to be. As a teenager he raced ground-bikes around Perez Park because, by that point, the streets had been almost taken over by the Skulls and the Hellions, and they would chase him, and it amused him to dodge them and leave them behind. He rode a variety of hover-bikes around Terra Volta, making it his personal training ground and obstacle course. One time, he actually managed to get into the pilot seat of one of the ominous Black Helicopters that did the Rogue Islands crossing… Father had to pull a lot of strings to get The Little Horror out of serious trouble that time. Horatio was confined to quarters for a month, and of course managed to sneak out. Hasmita put on his clothes and the bandana he had snatched from a Hellion – his favourite headgear – and sat in his room to fool the camera, while I went looking for him. He was in Pocket D, of course. Too young to drink legally, and well beyond tipsy.

    Back to “proper sports”: Hasmita was the best rider, Horatio was the best driver, but I was the best sailor… From the days of toy boats in the fountain in Perez Park (before everything went to pieces, when you could still go walking in the park without having to look out for little robots and sinister guys in green robes), to learning to row in the canals in Founders’ Falls, and then the little sailing dinghies from the beach in Salamanca, that was my favourite thing to do, if I had to be outside rather than inside, reading. Hasmita complained about getting cold and wet, and getting blisters on her hands. The Little Horror complained that it all took too long, and he’d be there in one tenth the time if we just let him add an engine. I wanted to sail round Paragon single-handed.

    I never had the time or the opportunity for that. But I had hopes; so I started, when I was ten, with a full circuit of Independence Port, using oars only when I was in close where the docks cut the wind out; and later I sailed round Striga Island, estimating how close I could get before the War Wolves would wade out to chase my boat – fortunately, they never did learn to swim. The views of the volcano from the water were impressive, though it was clear there were fortifications part of the way up, and there should not have been. Then came the summer when I sailed all the way out to Peregrine Island, and around its minor islands too. I think that ranks close toHoratio’s Skull-racing, in terms of foolhardiness… I never did tell our parents what I saw on the islands, and I kept a safe distance, too. There was no telling whether those things would be able to swim, and I didn’t want to find out.

    And there was shooting – we started with reproduction black powder muskets, to get the full Napoleonic experience. Hasmita suggested we should make our own gunpowder, too, but our parents decided that might be taking authenticity a little too far. We progressed to rifles, and on through the centuries, to contemporary weapons. I still like the smell of gunpowder, though.

    Adele Mundy

    – 2223 the Hon. Hasmita Joan Mundy-Chakravarthi joins the Board of Directors at Trafalgar Tech

    At about the time I was sailing the waters around Peregrine, Hasmita was turning into a businesswoman. Not that she ever abandoned the lab, bio-chemistry was her chosen field, but she also realised that since one day she would inherit most of the company assets, she had better be qualified to run it. In this, too, our father was somewhat old-fashioned: rather than divide the company between us and run the risk of differences of opinion on its future management, he decided that his eldest would inherit the majority, while Horatio and I would receive a life-long income from a fund set up for the purpose. It’s just as well, I suppose, that he wasn’t quite Napoleonic enough to decide that his heir had to be male… though I suspect Mother would have had something to say about it if he had tried that.

    – 2225 Adele Sophie Mundy applies to University of Paragon

    I applied, was accepted, and moved to Steel Canyon to attend the courses in person. Of course, a significant amount of the curriculum came from the Inner Planets, and was available online. Of course, there was the University of Paragon Salamanca campus. But attending in Steel Canyon gave me the chance to move out of Chatsworth and try to be an independent adult. Relatively speaking. I had the kind of allowance that meant, even when I turned down my parents’ offer to buy me an apartment near campus, I still had no difficulty renting one. I worked almost as hard at paring down my possessions as I did on the academic subjects; discovering how much time it takes to look after oneself was almost as alien as Xeno-linguistics, and the realisation of the amount of privilege I enjoyed was profoundly embarrassing.

    – 2228 Adele S. Mundy completes her first degree (Linguistics, with Xeno-linguistics)

    There’s not much to add to that. Student days.

    – 2228 the Hon. Hasmita Joan Mundy-Chakravarthi marries Alexander Blackwell

    Weeks after my graduation, Hasmita got married. I had been aware of Alex’s presence for a while, but had not paid a great deal of attention, since I was living away from home. It seemed sudden to me, but really was not, that this young man, some sort of relation to the Blackwells who owned the bookshops all over Paragon City, was going to marry my sister.

    The wedding was a lovely summer affair, held in the grounds in Chatsworth (the armed guards on the edge of the the wood were discreetly camouflaged; the bridal party’s guard of honour carried real guns as well as ceremonial, but functional, swords), with all the society notables attending, as well as a number of City of Paragon officials I had never expected would set foot outside City Hall, and of course a slew of Blackwell family members, some of whom I actually recognised from my frequent visits to their bookshops. And Great-Aunt Adelaide arrived with barely an hour to spare, fresh from the Inner Worlds and resplendent in her dress uniform with its array of medals and ribbons.

    She was an Admiral at this point, and of course had been away from action for a good while, dealing with administration and things she dismissed as “all that desk stuff”. She told stories of her days as a Lieutenant on Chimera, and refrained from rearranging the silver or the crystal.

    Hasmita and Alex went to Earth on their honeymoon, and when the aftermath of the wedding was cleared away and life in Chatsworth returned to normal, Great-Aunt Adelaide announced her intention to retire from the service. My parents invited her to stay on in Chatsworth for as long as she wished; Grandma Joan was not overjoyed, but at this point she was elderly herself, and mostly kept to her apartments, and so the thing was settled.

    Adele Mundy

    – 2228 Horatio Mundy leaves Paragon.

    Horatio, meanwhile, was far from settled. Continuing to live up to his nickname, The Little Horror had completed his secondary education with the minimum required to pass, and had refused to apply to any academic institution, preferring to spend his days hover-racing, and a considerable proportion of his nights in Pocket D. I had lost count of the times I had been woken up by a call from Mother in the middle of the night, telling me to go and retrieve him before Father decided to send private security to do so. So, when Father set down the conditions for his ultimatum, I was sure Horatio would be true to form, and refuse. I was wrong.

    Father went all Napoleonic on us again. He declared that now that Hasmita was married, and therefore would continue the line (I wanted to point out that there was no causal link between marriage and procreation, but I thought it politic to hold my peace), it was time to settle our careers: and that, in the old days, it had been the custom for the eldest to inherit, for the second child to go into the Church, and for the third to go into the Armed Forces. At this I did speak up, pointing out that he was an atheist, and so was I, and what Church in particular did he have in mind, because I was not going to compromise my principles for a ridiculous outmoded tradition. This led to a long and heated discussion, and it would be pointless to go into detail about it. The conclusion, though, was that the closest thing to a divinity that we could agree on was Truth, and the closest thing to a religious order devoted to Truth we could think of was a library. And since that appealed to me, and appeased Father, I suggested that I would apply for a job at Paragon Library, and he agreed.

    Then Father moved on to discuss Horatio’s future, and pointed out that, since Great-Aunt Adelaide was about to retire from the Admiralty, it would be sensible to make use of her influence as quickly as possible, and Horatio therefore should apply to the TSN Academy. Horatio’s disagreement was louder and stormier than mine, but not at all rational; and ended when he protested that he would never leave his friends in King’s Row, and he’d never salute anyone. He stormed out.

    Horatio took his favourite hover-bike and went to Pocket D to get drunk. By midnight, Father had cut all Horatio’s access to credit: his bank account was frozen, he couldn’t buy another drink, he couldn’t buy a meal, his access to all Mundy and Trafalgar Tech properties was denied. I went looking for him the next day, to tell him he could share my student apartment, and I’d use my funds to support him. I found out he had been in Pocket D, and left when his credit was blocked. I hunted all over Paragon, searched King’s Row’s seediest alleys, took a gun and went all through Perez Park, and robots and Skulls be damned. I found his hover-bike near the half-sunken plaque pedestal by the lake. No sign of a struggle, no fuel in the bike. I couldn’t find him.

    I reported him missing to P.P.D, in the end, though I hated admitting defeat, and I hated to bring the authorities into the matter. By the time I returned to Chatsworth it was well into the night again, and the ghosts and the glowing pumpkin-heads were out in force. I know, I know. There are no ghosts. The illusions of ghosts, then, the psychic impressions of some past trauma, whatever they are… were. Even the ghosts are gone, now.

    I went to my rooms and collapsed, slept late the next day. By the time I went downstairs, breakfast had been cleared up, and there was an unusual hush all over the house. Eventually I found out from Mother’s administrative assistant that Horatio had returned the previous day, while I was scouring Perez Park. He had been walked home from Salamanca station (the trains were free to all, but he had always despised them; it says a great deal about his state of mind that he actually took one) having abandoned his hover-bike when it had run out of fuel and he had no credit to buy more; and none of his friends would lend him a virtual penny. So he capitulated to Father’s demand that he apply to the TSN Academy. He had been on the shuttle off planet that same evening.

    I tried to contact him, repeatedly, and got no response. I made enquiries at the Academy, and was told that there was no applicant by the name of Horatio Mundy. Naively, I thought he had had the guts to rebel after all, and had taken off for some unknown destination. I did not question further. My parents never mentioned receiving news from him. I did not find out until years later that in one more attempt to anger Father while not actually going against the letter of his demands, The Little Horror had officially changed his name, before joining the Academy as Rajeev Chakravarthi.

    Meanwhile, I attended an interview in Steel Canyon Library, where I was told that I needed better qualifications, but that the Librarians would be happy to consider my application once I had achieved them; and so I began my doctorate.

    Adele Mundy

    – 2231 Alysande Cornelia Mundy-Blackwell, heir to Chatsworth estate and titles after her mother, born to the Hon. Hasmita Joan Mundy-Chakravarthi and Alexander Blackwell.

    During those years Hasmita and Alexander settled in the house in Founders’ Falls, continued their careers, and Hasmita produced the next Mundy heir, who happened to be a delightful baby girl with chubby hands and a bright smile. Our parents found themselves becoming helplessly adoring grandparents. Grandma Joan died after a short illness. Great-Aunt Adelaide, instead of settling into a quiet retirement, decided that Paragon could not be left to the mercy of groups like the Knives of Artemis and the ever-threatening Nemesis, and therefore she joined a cadre of volunteers who coordinated vigilante activities with the informal approval of City Hall.

    – 2231 Adele Mundy completes her PhD in Information Tech, with Archival Studies; goes to work in Steel Canyon Library

    I spent my post-grad days between the University and the Library in Steel Canyon, and by the time I completed my doctorate, I was familiar with the Library and its systems. I had used them, in fact, to track down The Little Horror through his little deception, and to keep an eye on the progress of Cadet Chakravarthi, and then Ensign Chakravarthi, and then Lt.Jr. Chakravarthi. I didn’t think he would advance so fast, given his past avowal that he would never salute anyone, and his past behaviour, but he seemed to take to the Navy life, and even without any recommendation from Admiral Mundy he was making a career for himself.

    Other, less pleasant things, were also advancing on and in Paragon. It happened gradually, and we who lived there, having become used to seeing gangs in the streets, were only slightly disturbed when the gang members started using drugs that caused or speeded up mutations, and made them look increasingly alien. Then there were sightings of aliens, and we thought it only slightly unusual. The number of vigilantes increased too, and we grew accustomed to the sight of flying figures above our streets, and fights in the city squares, and snipers on the roofs.

    Between 2232 and 2233 I went off-planet several times, on research assignments for the Library. The first time I experienced micro-gravity was a fascinating cross between delight and disconnection; but almost everything uses artificial gravity, and space travel, which had seemed so exotic to someone who had never left Paragon, started to become routine.

    Adele Mundy

    – 2234 Adele Mundy transfers off-planet for research

    In 2234 I was sent on a longer assignment to Carabosse, in the Perrault System. It was a responsibility I was proud of, and a fascinating subject. It was not to last.

    – 2235 Paragon: the Rikti invasion. Lt. Rajeev Chakravarthi goes AWOL.

    I was still on Carabosse when I heard the news, through Library contacts, of an obscure alien race travelling through Rhea sector. Then it was news of a sighting in Paragon’s solar system, then rumours of an attack. Nothing appeared on official channels. I sent messages home, and received no answer. When I tried contacting the Library again, I got static. I abandoned my research, grabbed my I.D., my Library access card, and my credit chip, and made my way to the spaceport.

    Not many people, on hearing that a planet in a distant sector may be under alien attack, are keen to drop their normally profitable business and head towards trouble. I had to make the flight exceptionally profitable. I did. We went. Gadfly was the ship, a small vessel with a crew of four, cramped quarters, a hold whose capacity had been cut down in order to increase fuel capacity and engine power. I did not press for details on how the captain normally made her living, but she assured me it depended on Gadfly being fast.

    We weren’t fast enough.

    There was no landing on Paragon, by the time we arrived. The planet was blanketed in radioactive ash falling like snow. The closest accessible port was the small science station on the far side of Exemplar, Paragon’s moon (the always-full moon that had never struck me as unusual until I started reading books set on Earth, and then learning the basics of astronomy), where the few would-be rescuers, and the even fewer shuttles and emergency craft that had escaped the final destruction, had gathered. They showed me the transmissions that had been sent during the final days, the waves of bombings from the ships, the increasingly desperate security forces response, the aliens emerging from their light-beam portals, the dying. Even through the static, the interruptions, the white-outs and black-outs of transmissions, the fragmentary data was undeniably dire. Still, some people had managed to take off before the final attack, there were transmissions from fleeing cargo ships, passenger vessels, even shuttles without warp. Some had made it to Exemplar, some, perhaps, had managed to escape the system.

    I met Horatio when I walked out of the room where the list of survivors was available, as I decided to go to the hangar yet again, to check in person if, by any chance, anyone I knew was there, and hadn’t been listed. He had just walked through the hangar and was coming to double check the written lists.

    People stared at us, realising that we knew each other, and had found each other. I don’t know how many false hopes we raised and how many hearts we broke, just by standing in that crowded metal hallway and whispering each other’s name.

    When we were coherent enough, we made our way to Gadfly. Sitting side by side on the bunk in my cramped cabin, we tried to make sense of what had happened. Horatio raged that the TSN had known of the imminent invasion, and had dismissed it. He saw conspiracies of alien races behind it, USFP officials bribed by dark forces plotting against the future of the human race. I looked up information through the Library channels, and could find no hints in that direction. It seemed to me, and it still does, though I haven’t stopped looking, that the Rikti were a small, remote, obscure alien race that had come into contact with a small, remote, obscure USFP colony planet, whose population had a generations-long tendency to hide from the rest of humanity. Their conflict had been local, sudden, and communications had been cut in its early stages.

    We argued. He accused me of siding with the aliens, and blaming Paragon for its own fate. He accused the TSN of inertia and wilful negligence. He threw accusations at his senior officers of being in the pay of alien spies. Through all that, I realised that he had not received official permission to leave his post. I expressed my concern, mitigated by the hope that the exceptional circumstances would be a reason for leniency when he returned. He looked at me as if I had taken leave of my senses. How could I expect for one moment that he would ever return to that den of alien sympathisers, who were working for humanity’s downfall? I tried to calm him down. I lost any sense of how long we had been talking.

    Eventually, exhaustion slowed us both down. I told him to go to sleep, while I went back out to the station and tried to find some food (supplies were limited, and were being handed out by a small contingent of emergency services personnel) and to arrange with the captain and crew where to go next. I found them in what passed for the mess hall, as they negotiated with desperate fugitives whose shuttle had reached Exemplar, but who had no way to travel further, about adapting Gadfly‘s hold into makeshift living quarters; they were arguing over how much to charge people who had lost everything for taking them to the nearest inhabited planet.

    I told the captain she would charge them nothing. I had chartered Gadfly and her crew, and I would take on the passengers at my expense. The crew had agreed to a fee, I had paid half in advance, and they would receive the other half, as agreed, upon completion. She objected that the expenses of converting the hold were not included in our agreement; we entered into a discussion, when all I wanted to do was sleep.

    Some kind of disturbance interrupted our negotiation, as what security there was started rushing around. Everyone started asking questions, everyone was afraid of another alien attack. The refugees and would-be rescuers were alarmed, and panic was imminent. Responding to increasingly urgent demands from the crowd to be told what was going on, the station personnel disclosed that a ship had just taken off without authorisation. It was Gadfly.

    Horatio had had the grace to gather the crew’s personal possessions, throw them into a couple of crates, and leave them in the hangar. My duffle bag was in there too, and under my change of clothes and my toiletries bag I found a small, roughly cut piece of material, with his TSN Lieutenant and Fighter Squadron Leader badges sewn on. I have it still.

    I don’t need to go into detail about the reactions of Gadfly‘s captain and crew; or those of the group of refugees whose hope of asylum had just been taken away. It took some time, and the majority of my immediately available funds, to deal with the consequences.

    Adele Mundy

    – 2235 Adele Mundy applies to TSN academy and is accepted

    Eventually, a proper evacuation of Exemplar Science Station was organised. Monitoring equipment was left there to watch the ruin that was Paragon, and to alert the system in case of a further attack, but otherwise the station was decommissioned and abandoned.

    I returned to my Library assignment so that I could formally resign in person. I had legal and financial matters to settle, and I did so. I paid market price for Gadfly to reimburse her captain. I contacted a local branch of the law firm the Mundys had used for years, and once my claim was established I arranged for all remaining Trafalgar Tech holdings to be placed into a managed trust whose profits would fund transport, resettlement, education and medical care for the Paragon refugees. I kept my last salary payment from the Library. Then I went to the TSN recruiting site and applied to the Academy.

    – 2237 Cadet Adele Mundy is assigned to the 2nd Flt. 4th LD

    The life of an Academy student and cadet is not so singular that it requires much description. One is presented with new challenges, with new subjects to study, and a new structure to life and social interactions. The study and analysis of structure had been part of my training; I adapted. It was strange, after the Library, to find the majority of my colleagues younger than I was, but the Academy succeeds in creating an atmosphere that fosters camaraderie. I made some good friends there, and when we were about to graduate I knew that I would miss them.

    It was a pleasant surprise, therefore, that when I left the Academy as a Cadet and was assigned to the Second Fleet, Fourth Light Division, in Promethean Sector, I found that Conrad Matsiyan had been assigned there also. It was good to see a friendly face – and to know that whatever happened, there would be good coffee somewhere in the division.

    Adele Mundy

    2237 current campaign time

    31015-2237 Cadet Adele Mundy’s first duty shift

    101015-2237 Adele Mundy promoted to Act. Ensign

    171015-2237 Adele Mundy promoted to Ensign; assigned to TSN Hawk

    2116-2237 Adele Mundy promoted to Jr. Lieutenant; on TSN Hawk

    26316-2237 Adele Mundy promoted to Lieutenant; transfer to TSN Eagle

    9716-2237 Adele Mundy promoted to Sr. Lieutenant; on TSN Horizon

    17916-2237 Lt.Sr. Adele Mundy posted to TSN Lancer

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