"A Deliberate Scheme"
After the noisy shipping trucks
had come and gone, leaving
pallets of goods stacked on
the loading dock, it was quieter
in Spalling's Super Surplus Shed.
Together V and Spalling worked
to sort and shelve the new stock
that replaced what they had
sold or traded elsewhere.
"These will sell," V said confidently,
looking at a box of jewelry made
from mining the asteroids.
"That tacky crap?" Spalling said,
frowning at the pink earrings. "It looks
like something I'd hang on a whore."
V laughed. "These are pink spinel
with meteoric nickel-iron. They are
elegant, unique, and expensive --
exactly what the Alta Familia like."
"The whole box?" Spalling asked.
"Mmm, some of it," V said,
nudging an engagement ring
whose blue-white diamond was
set in a band of nickel-iron.
"Some fellow will give this to
his girl and say that she is
the star of his life, or the like."
Now Spalling laughed.
"That I can see," he agreed.
He touched a ring of dark iron
that held a peridot cabochon.
"It's a pity these don't match."
"We can suggest matching rings
for future shipments," V said.
"That one wouldn't sell anyway."
"Why not?" Spalling asked.
"It's handsome and sturdy."
"It is not flashy enough for
the Alta Familia, and no one else
could afford it," V explained.
"Well, I like it," Spalling said as
he slipped the ring onto his finger.
"I'll just take this as part of my share."
"Then I'll take this necklace, which
won't sell either," V said, lifting it
from its box. Dark beads strung
on a line supported a triangle of
nickel iron, inside which a twist of
wire held a tiny, whole asteroid
no bigger than V's fingernail.
"You know a lot," Spalling said.
V sighed. "I know what I was
meant to know," V corrected.
Spalling put the remaining jewelry
and another box of loose gems
on the pallet for the Alta Familia.
"What makes you say that?"
"Because it's true," V said.
"The public schools are for
servant children, and they teach
practicalities. The private schools
are for professionals, and they offer
higher education. But for the children
of the Alta Familia there are no schools,
only tutors and sport coaches and socials."
"You don't sound happy with it,"
Spalling said. "Why not?"
"My parents each had their own agenda,
and they tailored my education with that
in mind -- naturally opposing each other,"
V said. "I would have preferred a school."
"That's sad," Spalling said. "I was never
lonely in the military, until after ..."
His voice trailed away.
For Spalling, everything
divided into Before and After.
"Well, that's education for you," V said,
setting a crate of industrial diamonds on
a cart heavily laden with factory supplies.
"It's all an elaborate form of propaganda,
a deliberate scheme to mold the students
into whatever society wants them to become --
mostly docile citizens with a few leaders."
"Or it was," Spalling said, looking down.
"The military is no longer the force that
it once was, on Trunnion or elsewhere."
"That's true," V said and checked
another box on the manifest.
"Many things will need to change."
"Why not change the schooling?"
Spalling said. "The military offered
all kinds of continuing education,
but most of it was boring. So we
used to make our own classes
for hobbies and all that."
A faint smile curled V's lips.
"All my 'hobbies' were selected
by my parents to convey some kind
of social advantage -- chess for strategy,
dance for courtship, art collecting
because everyone does it."
"Those aren't hobbies, then,"
Spalling said with a snort.
"Those are just homework.
A hobby is something that
you do for the fun of it."
"Then I suppose I have
no hobbies," V said.
"You already give blank face
like an expert," Spalling said. "Do
you know how to cheat at cards?"
"I do not," V said. "The Alta Familia
engage in a great many intrigues,
but rarely break the official rules.
It is considered a low-class ruse."
"Then they'll never see it coming,"
Spalling said with a wink. "Listen,
I know some other veterans who
get together for a game now and
then. What say I set you up with
a few lessons in cardsharking?"
"I must confess that I love doing
things which would scandalize
my parents if only they knew
about it," V said. "I'll try it."
"I'll set it up," Spalling said,
then checked the last line on
the manifest. "All right, that's
the lot for today. What do you
think about the Lacuna goods?"
"I see a lot of raw potential,"
V said. "They need so much --
almost everything -- but they
are putting serious effort into
using the resources they have."
"Some of it's bound to run out,
though, where they are drawing
on leftover stores from the military,"
Spalling pointed out. "That is
a limitation, unless they can
find stuff to trade for more."
"They need to establish at least
the basis of survival on their own,
independent of outside aid," V said.
"That means food and life support.
I believe they know this already."
"Yeah, they're asking for stuff
that can be used to grow food,
so that's good," Spalling said.
"We can pipe them plenty more
and feel confident they'll buy it.
The tech supply is harder, though."
"They haven't the base for most
of that," V said clinically. "They
will not any time soon, and some
may always require imports. Still,
they can certainly repair whatever
they have in the meantime."
"Repair tools and supplies,"
Spalling said, jotting a note.
"In order to establish a true economy,
which they also need, they will
require backers," V mused.
Spalling cast a sharp look at V.
"Got someone in mind for that?
Or a deliberate scheme of your own?"
V gave him an enigmatic look.
"I might," V said. "It depends
on what opportunities emerge."
"Guess it's like this trading post,
and the card games," Spalling said.
"Start small, see what works, and
then build on that foundation."
"A fine plan," V agreed.
"A plan for tomorrow," Spalling said
as he dusted off his hands and
put away his notes. "For today,
these boxes won't haul themselves!"
"Indeed they will not," V said,
and took a grip on the cart
holding the goods intended
for the Alta Familia market.
But there would be other days,
and other plans yet to come ...
* * *
The plain fact is that education is itself a form of propaganda - a deliberate scheme to outfit the pupil, not with the capacity to weigh ideas, but with a simple appetite for gulping ideas ready-made. The aim is to make 'good' citizens, which is to say, docile and uninquisitive citizens.
-- H. L. Mencken
Meteorite jewelry is beautiful and can be made in various ways.
Meteoric gems include diamonds and peridots. Locally our meteoric diamonds are tiny, but elsewhere in the galaxy they might be bigger.
See the spinel earrings, diamond ring, Spalling's peridot ring, and V's meteorite necklace.
Education is often divided by socioeconomic class, where poor and middle-to-upper class students have quite different schools. The wealthiest may forego school altogether in favor of private tutors. Those educations prepare them for divergent career paths too.
Some events are so momentous that they divide life into before and after. This is particularly true with workplace tragedies, and some people need to talk about that. Spalling hasn't really had that opportunity until recently. Bystanders may be affected but handle it poorly when dealing with those more directly affected, which made it untenable for Spalling in the military. There are ways to heal and find a new normal. One way is to focus on doing things, which both Spalling and V have chosen through running the supply center.
Planning ahead is a crucial life skill. Think about how to do that on a cultural and personal scale.