Thank you to all of the fans that have been asking if "A New Past" will continue. I can state categorically that it will.
That is the good news.
The bad news is that it will most likely not post until sometime next year.
I know everyone would like it sooner, but my real-life work schedule has not given me enough time to get back into a regular writing rhythm, which I need to be able to keep all the threads moving forward the way I like my stories to go. As the plot line has gotten closer to the recent past and near future, keeping everything straight was a major headache, which is one reason I needed a break from the tale.
I had intended on writing several sequels to "Survivors" as my interlude, but have found the stories I plotted out on that sequence are creating some character issues that I'm not enjoying, so I'm shifting focus again for a bit.
I know that a year is a long time to wait for another official chapter, so I'm putting a single scene from the next chapter here in my blog.
The usual caveats apply. This has not gone through any editing or proofing, so please don't think it will remain the same when I finally start posting.
Thanks for your patience, and thanks for reading.
"Thanks for making time for me, Kelly," I said as she greeted me at the door of her new house in Georgetown. Since she had first been elected in a special election, she had been required to stand for reelection last year. It had been a virtually unopposed run, with the Republic Party candidate only picking up just under forty percent of the popular vote.
Kelly pulled me in for a hug. "Like I'm going to tell my little brother I'm too busy to meet with him?" she asked teasingly. "Or am I such a poor politician I'm going to send the worlds richest man away without at least hearing him out?"
I laughed. "I guess you've got me on both accounts." I paused to look around her house. "This looks like a nice place," I said.
"Let me give you the grand tour," she insisted.
We quickly went through the formal areas of the first floor. They were not what I would have considered to be her style. She agreed. "But I need to entertain and be able to have meetings outside the Capitol or my offices. The first floor is pretty empty unless I'm hosting something."
The second floor was more to my liking. It felt comfortable and private. She showed me into her home office at the end of the tour.
"Before you ask, yes, Alison's folks have been over everything and are handling security. I think she even added a office here in D.C. for them to work out of and rotate through."
I smiled. "She told me. They are actually getting a lot of other discreet enquiries. Especially after the Oklahoma City bombing. I guess a lot of the government feels threatened after that."
"It's a mess," she agreed. "In every briefing we get the same questions and are told we are safe, but now a lot of my associates are feeling threatened."
"I can't condone his actions, but based on the few things in the press, it sounds like that is part of what he was advocating. I can almost understand his thinking, but again in the end he was an extremist who did not want to actually live in a democracy."
She nodded. It was a rehash of our discussions and interviews when the Unabomber had hit our offices.
"Surly you didn't come all the way to D.C. to check on my security?" She chided after a pause.
I smiled. "No. I've got some meetings in town on Monday and thought I'd check up on you to see how the 104th Congress was getting along."
"Bullshit, Paul. Don't try that game on me. I spend eighteen hours a day dealing with people trying to sell me something. It's almost enough to make me chuck in the towel and come back to the business side of things."
"You are welcome any time," I said.
She waved her fingers at me with our old "give-me" meaning.
I sighed. I should have know better than trying to ease into the conversation. We had covered the family and general business aspects during the tour. She knew I had something that might affect the hill, or I wouldn't have come in person, at least not a full day early for a Monday meeting.
"We're going to be doing some stuff on the show this summer that might raise some questions for your committees."
She had kept her position on the Commerce, Science and Transportation committee for the Senate and also joined the Appropriations Committee as the Chair for the Energy and Water Development sub-committee.
"Which one?" she asked as she pulled out a small notebook.
"Both, but the Appropriations one is probably more urgent."
"Several of our challenges are going to involve the desalinization plants in California. Depending on how things go, we might show a pretty stark contrast between what you guys are budgeting and what is really going to be needed to help improve water availability and usage in California."
"And it's going to air as we're working on next year's budget."
I nodded. "Also, it's pretty likely that some people are going to once again ask why the federal government is getting cheap clean power and their bills are staying the same or going up."
"What do you mean?"
"We're going to have excess power for the desalinization plants with the latest generator design. We'll be selling it on the open grid. One of our success measures for the interns is going to be how much power is left over from the water creation efforts."
Kelly had been involved enough in the show to understand we weren't talking a couple of kilowatts excess. "How much?"
I shrugged. "My initial number are at least twenty megawatts per plant. The Interns are likely to beat that number with the variables they can play with."
"And you can't just make more clean water with it?"
"California is looking at a purchase of thirty stations, partially funded with federal dollars. That will more than cover the gap in natural production. If they make excess water, they are going to need fewer plants, which they've already contracted for. I think the voters are going to want the power to go with their water."
"So what are your blockers?"
"I've got none. The public has two; PG&E and the unions. It's the same issues still. We make one step forward and two steps back, it seems."
"So what do you want me to do about it?"
I smiled. "If I knew that, I'd just tell you. I don't know what might have a chance of working. I do know this could be an opportunity for you to broker a deal that is good for your base and may have national implications. The Nuclear Regulatory Agency falls under your sub-committee for appropriations. Commerce and Science is the focus of your other one. Between the two, you are the only member on both, so if you can think of something, it's a good bet it will have decent support on the floor if it gets out of both committees."
She rubber her temples and jotted down a couple of notes. "Any carrots we can use to move things forward?"
"We're discussing back-to-back seasons of the Interns. We could probably find some way to work in a congressional challenge in the fall taping for spring airing. It's not much, but it might appeal to enough vanity to give you some leverage."
"Why are you doing back-to-back runs?"
"That's other item. Next year we'll have a sequel. We'll keep doing 'The Interns', but a year from now, you will also see the premier of 'The Interns - Orbital'."
"Which is the other shoe, right?"
I nodded. "It's got a lot more lead time for the projects, since space is not a very forgiving environment. We're planning a couple of teaser challenges this season to test out the appeal from viewers, but it has already tested well with both the network and the applicants for the show."
"And it's going to require us to revisit the charter?"
"No, but there might be a call for it from the viewing public. Since we're still defining all the challenges, I thought I should give you a heads up incase you needed any political leverage. Somethings are going to have to be done in specific locations, but there might be opportunities for other challenges."
"Like what?" she asked. "Help me understand."
"Well, some of the training could be filmed in Alabama at the US Space and Rocket Center just as easily as Houston or Wright Patterson Air Force base in Dayton. If you guide us, we can give some interplay with federal or state representatives from those locations. I would think a few million viewers would have some tourism benefits even if we don't actually have the elected officials on the show. I'm trying to give you some chips to play with, as we talked about a couple of years ago."
"When will you need to know by?"
"We're looking to lock in the new shooting schedule by the beginning of August. We should have the list of challenges by the middle of June. With our current schedule, I thought talking to you now would give you a chance to think about who might be standing for re-election and throwing some positive PR their way, or denying them of that opportunity as well."
She was nodding. "I get it. I'll have to review which seats are up and if there is an opportunity. Even the suggestion might be worth some leverage inside the DNC."
"Just keep me out of the actual discussions. I'll do some favors for you, but as soon as I get a call directly from them or the Republican Committee, I'm going to let Tom and Billy make the decisions."
She smiled. "I'll make sure anyone I talk to understands that this is a very sensitive and discrete play that I'm making." It was part of our special arrangement to build her power base without a money trail.
"Who else are you making this special offer to?"
I laughed. "I need to keep a balance, Sis. One of my meetings is at 1600 tomorrow. I'll let you infer as you will."
"George is a good politician. He'll understand and keep the Republicans in line for you."
"And you get the Democrats," I said in agreement.
"Now, why do you think this new show is going to cause problems instead of raise opportunities?"
"Money, why else? One of the challenges will be selecting a longer term mission objective. The dollars are going to be discussed on national television. What are people going to think about when we are talking about a billion dollar opportunity? You and I both know that NASA would spend two billion to bring one home. You know I won't. Under the charter, the US of A gets most favored nation status on lift capacity. They get some modest revenue for import/excise taxes. They won't get a billion dollar windfall for the budget suddenly."
"Are you serious about that kind of money?"
I nodded. "One early concept is asteroid mineral recovery. Depending on what we find, we could be looking at rare earths or precious medals in quantities to skew the short-term market. Market impacts are going to be one of the assessment criteria for analysis."
"How do you plan on making that sort of analysis television friendly?" She asked.
I grinned. "You'll just have to tune in and see next year."
"You do realize you need to manage the timing of that message, right?" she asked with a suddenly serious face.
"I think I do. Why do you think I should?"
"Next year is an election year. Bush won't be the man in the oval office in 1997. Depending on how you present it, you could raise an election issue in the debates. Be careful, because you might not like the direction the public runs with that sort of opportunity."
"Shit," I said.