Recruiting a Provost
A near future science fiction short.
This is the first of a planned weekly short story post. As a science fiction writer I want to share some of my work in addition to taking you on my journey.
“I’m not joining your cult,” Silver Cochran surveyed the 11th green from the elevated tee box.
“The Federated Pillars of Humanity is not a cult,” Tamara Reiss countered, her voice smooth. After seven months of conversations, she knew how Silver operated. Persuading a sexist and a bigot to contribute to the survival of the human race felt wrong, but her job was to persuade not vet the candidates.
“Well what do you call it when you want me to give you all my money and move into your compound and live by your rules?” He didn’t look at the young woman.
“That’s the wrong club, you’re going to be short and right, a bad leave on this hole.” Her stare burned a hole in the side of his head, she hadn’t lost a round since leaving the tour and she would prefer not to drop one to this hack. “So what’s going to happen to your kids? After they get their MBAs in their late twenties they take over the family foundation and work tirelessly — ”
“Don’t bring my kids into this.” He stepped back from the ball.
“But that’s exactly what this is about. There have been enough generations of inherited wealth for everyone to know that they aren’t going to have a positive impact on the problems facing our planet.” Tamara paused for effect. “Or our species.”
“My kids will be just fine, thank you very much.” He looked over the clubs in his bag.
“And their legacy will be what? Not adding to the pollution around your private Caribbean island?” She knew that legacy was a big thing with Silver Cochran, founder of Cochran Industrial Engineering.
“We’re working on desalination plants and water purification technology to solve the drought crisis in Africa.” His voice rose and his finger pointed at the confident young woman. “That will be their legacy.”
“We’re fighting the same problem, it’s just that our solution is bigger picture.” She softened her tone and opened the water bottle she was holding. “You know all of our ancestors were once in Africa. When they realized that it was too dry and too harsh to sustain the number of lives they were creating, they left. That’s how humans spread all over this planet.”
The Director of Provost Recruitment for the Federated Pillars of Humanity knew she had him right where she wanted him. She took a long drink of water to cool her own nerves and waited for his next words.
“Run it by me one more time.” Silver placed his nine-iron back in the bag and pulled out his eight-iron.
“The Federated Pillars of Humanity is an organization committed to the courage, capability, and community required for humans to colonize space.” Tamara could say these words in her sleep. “If our species is to continue, we need to grow beyond this fragile, single point of failure we know as Earth. We’re not claiming doomsday or a catastrophic event is imminent but, for the good of our species, we need to expand beyond where we are today.”
“And you think my money will help you do that?” He always referred to his money.
“No. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were rich, but more importantly they contributed leadership and vision to the last great leap forward. In fact, there is no money in a pillar. Community is the only currency. Everyone contributes to the survival of the Federation — people who don’t contribute are cast out.”
“So I fund this pillar, my family and I move in and then what?” He addressed the ball again.
“Well, after you have committed to the Federation, you hand pick a team and you come up with a plan for the pillar to be self-sustaining. The Federation has general design specs for the tower, but you can customize it based on your plan.” This was the point when he would start coming around for real.
“And I’m supposed to support twenty-thousand people in this thing?” His preference for small, focused teams when tackling new challenges was well known.
“To start. Then growing to as many as forty thousand. We need a meaningful population if we’re going to be colonizing space.” Knowing it would fall flat, diverse was intentionally omitted from this part of the speech.
“There will be two hundred of these pillars altogether? Why so many?” Silver rested his club on the ground and tightened the glove on his left hand.
“Some are going to fail. This isn’t about money or status, it’s about taking our species to the next level and guaranteeing our survival.” She prepared for the ultimate ego play. “Provosts will be remembered at a level above the signers of the Constitution and across multiple galaxies. This is so much bigger than a namesake building at your alma-matter.”
The fit, middle aged man took a step back from the ball and swung his club casually three times. He closed his eyes and took a long, deep breath while his body stilled completely.
“I want to build my pillar in Montana, and Cochran Industrial is going to handle the systems design work for all the pillars, world-wide.” He stepped to the ball and the club head drew back slowly.
“That sounds like an excellent plan. I think you are going to enjoy meeting with the Provosts of the Federation.” Tamara was excited about landing her seventh Provost in less than nine months of recruiting.
Silver Cochran swung the club smoothly and a small tuft of grass rose in the air. The little white ball arched against the blue sky and fell towards the manicured grass of the green. After a small hop, the ball rolled a little more than a foot before coming to a stop eight inches from the hole.
“Nice shot Provost Cochran.” Tamara used the most distinguished term in the Federation as she prepared for her own tee shot.
“I’m glad I listened to you, and I don’t say that to many people,” he boomed. “And I like the way that sounds — Provost Cochran.”
“The federation is lucky to have you and, thanks to people like you, our species’ future looks bright.” Tamara wasn’t sure if any of them would succeed, but that wasn’t her concern. She had no idea if the Provosts who hired her were serious about the future of the species nonsense or colonizing space, but the Federation paid incredibly well and the pitch seemed to be working.
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