May 13 2013 12:30pm
Check out L. E. Modesitt, Jr.’s new novel, The One-Eyed Man, out on September 17:
The colony world of Stittara is no ordinary planet. For the interstellar Unity of the Ceylesian Arm, Stittara is the primary source of anagathics: drugs that have more than doubled the human life span. But the ecological balance that makes anagathics possible on Stittara is fragile, and the Unity government has a vital interest in making sure the flow of longevity drugs remains uninterrupted, even if it means uprooting the human settlements.
Offered the job of assessing the ecological impact of the human presence on Stittara, freelance consultant Dr. Paulo Verano jumps at the chance to escape the ruin of his personal life. He gets far more than he bargained for: Stittara’s atmosphere is populated with skytubes—gigantic, mysterious airborne organisms that drift like clouds above the surface of the planet. Their exact nature has eluded humanity for centuries, but Verano believes his conclusions about Stittara may hinge on understanding the skytubes’ role in the planet’s ecology—if he survives the hurricane winds, distrustful settlers, and secret agendas that impede his investigation at every turn.
Court procedures on Bachman were old-fashioned, requiring all parties be present. So there I was, after two hours of evidence and testimony, on one side of the courtroom, standing beside my advocate, Jared Hainsun, before the judge’s bench, and on the other side was Chelesina, with her advocate. Chelesina didn’t look in my direction. That didn’t surprise me. For the three years before she left, she’d barely looked at me even when she’d been looking at me. That didn’t bother me so much as the way she’d set me up after she’d split . . . so that the only option was no fault.
The judge looked at me. I could have sworn that the quick glance she gave me was almost pitying. I didn’t need that. Then she cleared her throat and spoke. “In the proceeding for dissolution of permanent civil union between the party of the first part, Chelesina Fhavour, and the party of the second part, Paulo Verano, the Court of Civil Matters, of the Unity of the Ceylesian Arm, located in the city of Smithsen, world of Bachman, does hereby decree that said civil union is hereby dissolved.”
She barely paused before going on. “In the matter of property allocation, the net worth of the assets of both parties has been assessed at five point eight million duhlars. The settlement to the party of the first part, Chelesina Fhavour, is four point one million duhlars, of which three million has been placed in an irrevocable trust for the daughter of the union, Leysa Fhavour, said trust to be administered by the Bank of Smithsen until Leysa Fhavour reaches legal civil and political maturity . . .”
At least, Chelesina can’t easily get her hands on that.
“. . . Civil penalties for breach of union are one point five million duhlars, to be split between you, as mandated under the laws of the Unity. The remainder of all assets is allocated to the party of the second part, Paulo Verano.
“The court will revisit the situation of both partners in one year and reserves the right to make further adjustments in asset placement. That is all.”
I looked at Jared.
He shook his head and murmured, “They let you keep the conapt.”
And two hundred thousand duhlars. “But . . . she left me.”
“No fault,” he reminded me.
Three million for Leysa, when she hadn’t spoken to me in two years. When she had only a year left at the university? When her boyfriend’s father was the one for whom Chelesina had left me?
So . . . out of some six million duhlars, I had two hundred thousand left . . . and a small conapt in Mychela. And a consulting business that the Civil Court could suck duhlars from for another two or possibly three years? All because I went to bed with someone besides Chelesina a year after she’d left me?
Jared must have been reading my mind . . . or face, because as we turned to leave the courtroom, he said quietly, “Equal no fault doesn’t weigh things.”
“I know that. I do have a problem with most of my assets going to an ungrateful daughter who won’t speak to me even after I’ve paid all the bills for years.”
“That’s Unity policy. Permanent civil unions are supposed to protect the children. If the civil union is dissolved, the Court allocates enough assets to ensure that the child or children are adequately protected and able to continue in roughly the same lifestyle as before the dissolution.”
“Which punishes me for making sure she was educated and raised with all advantages,” I pointed out. “It doesn’t punish Chelesina.”
“It can’t. Her design firm went bankrupt.”
I had my doubts about the honesty of that bankruptcy, but Jared would just have told me what I already knew.
There wasn’t a thing I could do about it.