“What do you mean, husband?” asked Vivy.

“I have been promoted from first design team to junior
planner,” announced Aris.

“Oh, that’s wonderful!” beamed Vivy. “That is a position you
have been aiming for since before we were wed. I still remember the day I
arrived from Moonglow up above and moved into our first living unit to get it
ready for our marriage.”

“I remember too. I was a maintenance worker then, like Stoney
here. But I worked hard, impressed my supervisors, and suggested improvements
in the designs the men were working on as often as I could. My efforts paid off
when my supervisors were promoted on the basis of my suggestions and managed to
have me named to their design team. The increased salary enabled us to move
from the north side to the unit we currently occupy. With this promotion, I
will have to do less design work and more actual planning. I will be out of the
design wing more often, moving among the different towns of Skyview Tower and interfacing
with our representatives in manufacturing and sales. Of course, it means that I
will also have less time for my chores here in the living unit.”

“It all sounds so exciting, doesn’t it, son?” asked Vivy, not
at all concerned that her husband would likely not be home to welcome her after
a hard day on Office Level III.

“Very,” agreed Stoney, trying to sound encouraging.

The thought of spending endless years giving his ideas away
to designers and supervisors unqualified for their positions, and hoping their
resulting success would carry him along, did not appeal to him in the
slightest.

“You sound underwhelmed, son,” noted Aris.

“No, I’m happy for you, Father,” said Stoney.

“But there is something else.”

“Well . . . well, it seems to me this success should have
happened far sooner.”

“How so?”

“Since many of the ideas that helped your supervisors advance
were actually yours, wouldn’t it make more sense for you to be the one who
benefited?” blurted Stoney, to gasps from Vivy and Immomia. “Why should
less-qualified employees be promoted ahead of you simply because of the color
of their skin?”

There was silence for quite a few moments. Such things were
not said in polite company.

“Son, I don’t have to remind you of the past evils visited
upon our citizens of color by those of European descent . . .” Aris began.

“But no one alive today, or for the last 250 years for that
matter, has suffered or even witnessed such evils,” Stoney replied. “Why should
they continue to benefit from the misfortunes of their long-dead ancestors?”

Aris was taken aback by this bald statement. Unconsciously,
he looked about as if to make sure no one outside the family was listening. Then
he leaned forward and whispered, “Son, the sentiments you’ve expressed can be
very dangerous and could cost our family its position in the community, not to
mention my promotion. Now, you have always been a bit out of step with your
friends, but you should be mature enough to understand the ways of the city.”

“All I understand is the injustice of it all,” Stoney
insisted.

“It is injustice that the laws of the Municiplex have been
created to redress,” said Immomia dutifully. “Certainly, our family is not of
the upper echelons, and I regret not having been assigned to wed a citizen of
color. But some day our fortunes will change and we can begin the process of
full social integration.”

“Of course, son,” soothed Vivy, resting her hand on
Stoney’s. “Soon it will be your turn to
wed, and there is every possibility that she will be a citizen of color.”

“That is not my point,” insisted Stoney, pulling his hand
away. “I simply think that promotion on the employment levels should be based
on merit and not pigmentation!”

“I think that is quite enough, son,” said Aris, his voice
assuming an unaccustomed air of command. “The city provides for all our wants
and offers us a means of moving up and bettering ourselves.”

“At the expense of our identities?” asked Stoney. “At the
expense of pandering to less qualified superiors? If that’s the case, I’m not
interested in what the city can provide!”

“What more do you want?”

The question brought Stoney up short. What did he
want?

“I … don’t know,” he said, shaking his head. “But something
is missing. I’m tired of living on the sunless side of Skyview Tower. I’m tired
of cleaning window banks and human waste depositories. I know my contributions
can be more substantial if only I have the opportunity.”

“But you will have
the opportunity, son. You must simply be more patient, work with your
supervisors, and in ten or twenty years, you too may be promoted to junior
designer.”

“Ten or 20 years!” spat Stoney. “Pfah! Why should anyone with
genuine ability wait so long while others far less qualified are given top
positions?”

“But it is their right as citizens of color . . .” Immomia began.

“I don’t want to hear that!” shouted Stoney, getting up abruptly.
“In fact, I don’t want to continue this conversation at all.”

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