© 2014 by Dave Rogers
“Oh, to be husbands of the fields.”
Life, for most men in the provinces, was confined to the irrigation belts. In Bolhcin, their encampment lay on the outskirts of town, along the snaking canal, beginning at the Abbey and Polytechnic grounds and continuing at least a kilometer to the southeast. By day, tents, lean-tos, plywood shacks, and even stark shipping crates could be seen lining the tree-lined canal. In the dim twilight of dawn, distant, fires from the grill pits glittered like stars of the Hypatial Spiral, fallen across the rolling farmlands. The steep levees that lined the canal and the camp’s distance from town, were both contributors to the isolation of men on the belt, but the primary factor was certainly the metics themselves.
The Aum matriarchy, during their Years of Light, had vested the metics with enormous power over agricultural programs, which led to a rapid growth in the number of males necessary for operations at the Grange. And since true citizenship still relied on ancient techniques, metics were forced to expand their brotherhood for control of those who would never be citizens. The result was that the slaves became overseers.
So what seemed to be years of progress — the Polytechnic for male technical education, Confederate-authorized men’s Gymnasiums, even their ability to rent apartments and open limited bank accounts — had a much darker reflection on the irrigation belts themselves. The young initiates for the brotherhood suffered greatly under the lash, so to become harsh overseers of the non-citizens forced to fieldwork. The old rites to Deme, Praise the Goddess, faded from the daily processionals, replaced with vague Apollyon references.
It was little wonder that the Loghtn martiarchy rose as it did. The Aum progressives had cultivated the reasoned man in society, yet allowed the orge monster to rule the provincial fields. For hundreds of years, unbridled aggression and anger — orge madness — had plagued the weaker gender, and rational scientists had devoted years to its cure, Unfortunates being sad proof of the attempts. The Loghtn’s strategy was a twofold attack: the plague itself, and it incubation in the provinces, on the belts and in the fields.
So when Chief Marshal Elsie Gehren was found brutally murdered, her body dumped on the canal’s shore south of Bolhcin, even the First Chamber in distant Cerewym acted, sending shudders through the Confederation.