Issue Number 2
Queen or Pawn? The Life of Corina Ling-Raleigh, by Barry Boone
Here, in the confusion of the streets, where a new sense of purpose is coming to be born. . . here, among the anonymous mass of working, suffering, thinking, silent people. . . here, in the midst of exhaustion and hope, justice and mockery . . . here in this shapeless mass, the driving force of a capital city, nerve center and engine of a great Spinward Marches planet, here she is, the woman, Corina Ling-Raleigh. I was given the exclusive opportunity to speak with Corina: the Regent, the legend, and the woman, at the offices of The Foundation of Social Assistance one morning this week. She spoke of her hopes and her tragedies.
Baroness Corina Ling-Raleigh is the eldest daughter of an Imperial noble family; because her mother is a Ling, her blood not only flows blue, but it pulses with the strength of the Mega-corporations. I came expecting to meet someone who handles power with ease and instead found a woman who has the strength built of triumphing against the odds. A Regent who, like Regina, is always the underdog fighting overwhelming forces.
I met a woman of fragile appearance, but with a strong voice, with long brown hair falling loose to her back and fevered eyes. Her face still bore the marks of the recent car crash. She said her name was Corina Ling-Raleigh, that she had acted as the Regent and that she wanted to help the people of Regina. I looked at her and felt overcome by her words; I was quite subdued by the force of her voice and her look. Corina was pale but when she spoke of the people, her face seemed to catch fire. Her hands were reddened with tension, her fingers knit tightly together, she seemed a mass of nerves.
Corina spoke softly of a youth filled with outward success and her desire to uphold the family name. Enlistment in the Line Branch of the Imperial Navy, appointment to the Naval Academy and Flight School, was followed by a promising four term career with a final rank of Lieutenant Commander. By the third year of her service in the Navy she had already won a Purple Heart and a Medal for Conspicuous Gallantry for her actions in Command during a Naval Strike. She continued to receive combat assignments to battles and strikes. Although her actions on the bridge were always of the highest caliber, she began to use stims to maintain that edge. Finally, while assigned in command of yet another strike mission, the use of stims induced a violent paranoia. At this point in the story, Corina laughed and said "When the Lt. Commander barricades in a cabin with a pistol, people are forced to notice there's a problem". I examined the military service file which reflects a medical discharge from the Imperial Navy in the name of Lt. Commander Ling-Raleigh. It was everything she said and more: two purple hearts, one Meritorious Conduct Under Fire, two Medals for Conspicuous Gallantry, Naval Aide, Command College and a medical discharge for psychological reasons. It was as if they had sucked the marrow from her life and then cast her aside.
Even worse, the family "embarrassed" by the discharge asked her to "go to the Spinward Marches until the incident was forgotten". That's what the Imperial nobility thinks of the Marches, some place that doesn't matter for someone that doesn't matter. Corina became the Regional Director for Ling-Standard, based on Regina. Her eyes began to sparkle as she talked of a place where anyone can make a difference, regardless of their birth. She spoke of a place where people speak their minds freely and live their lives even more freely. During her service, Corina learned the value of taking care of her troops and gradually first the staff of Ling-Standard and then the whole populace of Regina become Corina's troops.
The Regina Society pages first glitter with Corina and then explode into the dazzling fairy tale of Corrina's engagement to Mark Bach. It was not possible for any more photogenic couple to exist on Regina. Corrina began to expand her social work, organizing charity balls, visiting hospitals and refugee camps. On the eve of the vaunted wedding suddenly the press reported that Corina had broken off the engagement with Mark Bach, citing irreconcilable differences. Corina told me that how, and if, I told this story was up to me. And you, the public deserve to know the truth. I saw a tape of the conversation between Corina nd Mark, made on the day of the breakup. Mark told her that he was in love with someone else and couldn't marry her. He said that he would give her anything she wanted to break off the engagement, even stating for her sake that it was she who chose to break the engagement. But the truth was that the only thing that he couldn't or wouldn't give her was happiness.
Baroness Ling-Raleigh shrugged saying that now she had not only been dumped by the Imperium and her family, she had also been dumped by the aristocracy. She rose to her feet then and began sweeping back and forth over her office rug with a torrential energy. She stated that the one joy in her life became her contact with the simple people of Regina. She stated that in her primarily symbolic role as Regent on Regina, she had the opportunity to work with the refugees after the meteor strike on the planet. She stated that this brought a profound peace to her life. "They thought that they had thrown me into a briar patch, but I learned that rabbits like me are safe in those briars".
She then spoke softly of the car accident that left the fresh marks on her face and hands. She stated that she had been incredibly foolish to take the boy with her on her first ride in the new sports car. She stated that she regretted that they were not personally closer at the time, and that the best way that she could think of to reach out to him was to take him for an exciting drive. She stated that she still doesn't know whether the car was sabotaged, and perhaps in light of the recent rumors regarding the theft of the black box, she'll never know. She stated that this accident made it clear to her, however, "if you don't use the power that you have for good, a higher power will hold you accountable for that at a later time."
Referring to the intervention by the Zhodanis on Regina, Corina stated that they brought both great evil and great good to the planet. Their evil was in telling people what to think. Their good was in the attention they paid to all those things that make real people's lives better. "I've heard so many people say that their toilet or air purifiers never worked right until they were serviced by a Zhodani technician. We must give life to great ideas such as better food, better housing, steady work and health care that people can afford."
Corina stood at the office window and motioned to the supplicants lined up outside her door. "The revolution did not come without reason. It came because something painful and hard has grown in this planetary system, deep down, where there is hate and passion and the sense of injustice makes the blood rush to one's hands and head. . . The revolution is made for exploited workers. It was made because of the fraud of dishonest politicians and because the planet was bankrupt of feeling, at the verge of suicide. I wish to be a woman who brings dignity to the notion of work, a soldier of the people who can feel the flame of social justice. Together we can accomplish a people's revolution."
Corina took my hand and lead me to the door. She smiled wanly, but with that electric look still in her eyes, and counseled me gently to place my money with the bookies on political and personal "Regina Suicide" for Corina Ling-Raleigh.