From the author: One of the biggest reporters of the era interviews Gabriel Martiniere and Ruby Barkley about their past and their current roles as the Martiniere and the Matriarch. But there is more than one interview going on...and Ruby continues to learn more about Gabe's secretive past during the years they spent apart. A BROKEN ANGEL preview.
“Oh, hell,” Ruby Barkley muttered as she studied her tablet projection over breakfast. “Gabe, did you see this story in the Times?”
Her husband Gabriel Martiniere, the Martiniere, head of the Martiniere Family and the Martiniere Group, looked away from his yellow-shaded projection, a tint darker than hers. He smirked at Ruby from his side of the long table in the common dining area. “You mean the scandal-ridden speculations about what I was doing during the thirty years I was on the run from my father Philip?”
“Gabe.” She’d been a part of that era and some of those memories—like their then-divorce—were painful.
“Don’t worry, I’ve already sent the lawyers,” Gabe’s sister Justine chimed in from her seat further down the table.
Gabe laughed. “And the Times responded, Justine. They want to do an interview with the Martiniere, for their video supplement. Brandon’s negotiating with them.”
“Oh my God.” Justine choked on a swallow of coffee. “You’re not going to—”
Ruby wasn’t certain if Justine was horrified or laughing.
“We are in Paris for December, after all,” Gabe said. “We can do it here, and rope in Family members who want to play along.” His grin spread wider.
“You’re enjoying this,” Ruby accused.
“Rubes, after going through all the scandal sheet shit that we did with the AgSuperhero and the Superstar, the Times is positively boring. Even the video supplement.”
“True,” she admitted.
His face hardened. “And, personally, I’d like to rub in their faces that my beautiful, brilliant wife is as elegant as any Parisienne or high-society bitch I could have married. So much so that I married you twice. That my son and his wife and child are cultured, and that his sister-in-law is the US President.” Gabe sighed and rubbed his face. “Philip’s little worms from the Real Truthers are still pumping out a batch of false stories. I think it’s time I spoke for myself—and it gives me a chance to show off my immediate family. If—you want to go along with it, Ruby.”
Gabe’s late father Philip still had his admirers in the far-right US Real Truther political party. Unfortunately, many of them worked in media.
“I might be a little bitchy,” Ruby said slowly. “Some of the zingers from that story got to me. Even though they shouldn’t. They went out of their way to portray me as a hick hayseed rodeo queen. And all the bigotry and racism about Bran and Kris being a mixed marriage. You’d think all that shit would be over by now.”
He nodded. “Bitchy is fine, though personally, I plan to be suave, scintillating, and as scathing as possible. All in a very elevated tone. I’ll let Bran decide just how much he and Kris want to get into their issues. He may not want to discuss it at all.”
“That could be fun.”
Justine snickered. “One of those, Gabie?”
Justine rose. “I’ll go see who else from the Family wants to play. Do we have a date yet?”
“I’ll let you know. And we’ll put Brandon on it for rehearsals and staging,” Gabe said.
Ruby smirked at that. Their son Brandon still ran regular political ‘casts as a sideline from his responsibilities as the Martiniere-in-waiting, as part of their shared goal to eliminate indentured servitude worldwide.
“I’ll see what I can do. But—while I’ll put it together, I’m going to stay clear, and keep Donna-gran out. Her presence could send the questioning down pathways we want to avoid.” Justine left.
Ruby raised her brows at Gabe. “One of those?”
Gabe steepled his fingers and propped his chin on his index fingers. “Let’s just say that sometimes the Family has been known to—play—with this sort of profile.” He smirked. “I think I might study a few of Philip’s interviews so I know what not to do. That’s probably why Justine’s staying away. She—doesn’t always do well with this sort of interview. And Donna-gran—well, I love my grandmother dearly, but she does not always monitor her mouth appropriately when talking to the media. You, Brandon, and I can manage it.”
BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THE POWERFUL AND MYSTERIOUS MARTINIERE
One of most formidable and secretive men in the world—just who is Gabriel Martiniere?
(Still photo caption: The immediate family of Gabriel Martiniere—a portrait. L-R: Standing: Brandon Martiniere, Gabriel’s son, holding Brandon’s daughter Lily. Brandon’s wife Kris Markey. Seated: US President Patricia Markey, Kris Markey’s sister. The Martiniere, Gabriel Martiniere. Standing between chairs: Michael Martiniere, Gabriel and Ruby’s young adopted son. Seated: The Matriarch, Gabriel’s wife Ruby Barkley. The former Matriarch, Gabriel’s grandmother Donna Martiniere. Standing: Justine Martiniere, Gabriel’s sister. Donald Atwood, Justine’s ex-husband.)
BY: NICK COLIGNY
Lead Reporter, Behind the Scenes Times Video Supplement
(NICK COLIGNY standing in front of the Martiniere mansion in Paris, France.)
COLIGNY: The story of Gabriel Martiniere is a riches-to-rags-to-riches chronicle that’s almost fairy-tale in nature. In 2029, Martiniere testified about human rights violations performed against indentured workers by the Martiniere Group, the closely-held family conglomerate for which Martiniere was a major heir. Shortly after that testimony, Martiniere disappeared for thirty years.
Then Martiniere resurfaced at the AgSuperhero competition almost three years ago as Gabe Ramirez, former rodeo cowboy, proprietor of Moondance Microbials. In collusion with his then ex-wife Ruby Barkley and Jeff Swait, he won the Superhero and revealed who he really was.
Since then, Martiniere has remarried Ruby Barkley, ascended to the leadership of the Martiniere family and the Martiniere Group, and was a leading financial contributor to the election campaign of the current US President, Patricia Markey, his daughter-in-law’s sister. Martiniere campaigns as strongly against indenture as a remedy for crippling individual debt defaults as his predecessor and father Philip Martiniere campaigned for it.
But there’s much, much more to Gabriel Martiniere than simple realpolitik. After three decades spent as a cowboy and rancher in Northeastern Oregon, Martiniere has risen from a simple life to become one of the most powerful men in the world…but who is he, really? Behind the Scenes takes you behind the scenes…to look at the many facets of Gabriel Martiniere.
(GABRIEL MARTINIERE walks hand-in-hand with RUBY BARKLEY toward COLIGNY. They sit in pale green wingback stuffed chairs, and continue holding hands. MARTINIERE wears a black pinstripe suit with a gold brocaded vest. BARKLEY wears a sea-green fitted dropped-waistline dress along with the famous Martiniere emerald set.)
COLIGNY: So. Gabriel Martiniere. Cowboy, rancher, or sophisticate?
BARKLEY: I prefer to think of him as all three.
MARTINIERE: (laughs) It depends upon the circumstances.
COLIGNY: But you spent thirty years posing as a rancher and cowboy. Surely that has some effect on your attitudes?
MARTINIERE: Ruby is correct. I am all three—and those thirty years were much more than posing. There were times, both before and after our divorce, where I lived very tight. That wasn’t play-acting.
BARKLEY: (quietly) When Gabe and I were first married, he went hungry so that my grandfather and I had enough to eat. It broke my heart to see him skip meals, take small portions, and watch him lose weight. Due to livestock diseases in the area that had the potential to affect my pregnancy, I couldn’t help him with ranch work.
MARTINIERE: It was absolutely worth it to keep you and Brandon safe. (Raises BARKLEY’S hand and kisses it).
COLIGNY: But. A Martiniere, especially a Martiniere heir, living like that. How could you stand it?
MARTINIERE: I was not Gabriel Martiniere then. I was Gabe Ramirez, and that was just the way things had to be.
COLIGNY: But why a rancher? Why a cowboy?
MARTINIERE: My first identity in hiding was that of an independent investment analyst, Daniel Williams. Once it became clear that the Federal witness program had been infiltrated by supporters of my father, well (MARTINIERE shrugs), I knew I had to do something different. Becoming a rodeo cowboy and ranch hand on the run from indenture bounty hawks was not something that most people would expect me to do, unlike the life of Daniel Williams. It was a safe means to hide from my father—until that changed.
COLIGNY: Your father. Let’s talk about him.
MARTINIERE: Which one? Remember, until three years ago, I thought that I was the son of Saul Martiniere, and loved him deeply—still do. I did not know about that devil’s deal of an arrangement between Saul, Philip, and my grandmother Donna. I honestly thought that Philip Martiniere was my uncle, not my father.
COLIGNY: All right, then. Philip Martiniere.
MARTINIERE: (Pauses. Takes a deep breath.) That is a very complex and nuanced subject, and I do not think you have enough time to cover it properly in a single episode. We need to move on.
COLIGNY: All right, then. Your policies as the Martiniere have been a 180 degree change from your predecessor’s. Why?
MARTINIERE: Because his policies were wrong. I said they were wrong when I testified in US vs Martiniere Group all those years ago, and I still stand by that analysis.
MARTINIERE: (Raises hand). I do not believe this is a productive line of discussion. My actions speak for themselves, and I will not debate Martiniere Group management in an interview for the popular media.
(Significant transcript edits)
(Video: MARTINIERE in a dive bar, with a blonde woman—MARIAH MEYERS—in his lap. BARKLEY enters. Argument between MEYERS and BARKLEY, then MARTINIERE and BARKLEY, ending with BARKLEY throwing an envelope in MARTINIERE’S lap. Clip ends. Cut to reaction shot of BARKLEY and MARTINIERE, both wincing.)
BARKLEY: That was a long time ago.
MARTINIERE: Things were not exactly as they appeared.
COLIGNY: You seem to say that a lot about those thirty years.
(Click of footsteps. MARIAH MEYERS enters the room, on the arm of a partially cyborged young man. They bow to MARTINIERE and BARKLEY, then stand next to BARKLEY.)
MEYERS: I am the person who can best speak to that video. (Takes deep breath and nods toward the young man.) This is my son, Alexander Martiniere, son of Gabriel’s cousin Joseph. At the time of that video, I was still under a hidden indenture contract held by Philip Martiniere. I and several other indentured women were forced to give birth to Joseph’s sons, who were eventually cyborged, like Alexander. (Swallows hard.) Philip Martiniere ordered me to discredit Gabe Ramirez and force his divorce from Ruby Barkley. I administered psychotropic medications to Gabe so that Philip’s mind control programming would be more effective. In return, I was allowed to spend an entire week with Alexander—he was five years old when this happened, and that was the longest time alone that I ever had with him, until he was freed as an adult.
BARKLEY: Thank you, Mariah. Gabe was not the only one under influence at that time. I was as well.
COLIGNY: Wow. Just—wow. So this has been documented?
MARTINIERE: Internal Martiniere Group records only. Highly proprietary because of the techniques and substances used.
COLIGNY: And is this technology in use today?
MARTINIERE: No. Not by me; not by the Martiniere Group. I cannot speak for others who have had access to it in the past.
MEYERS: I would also like to thank Gabe and Ruby for their forgiveness of my actions, and for their assistance in freeing Alexander and his brothers from lifetime indenture.
MARTINIERE: Thank you, Mariah.
COLIGNY: If I may ask—?
MEYERS: No. I have said all that I have intended to say.
(MEYERS and ALEXANDER MARTINIERE bow again to BARKLEY and MARTINIERE, then exit.)
(Further transcript edits)
(Video: MARTINIERE is on the back of a high-bucking chestnut and white horse. A buzzer sounds and the horse bolts into a gallop. After rodeo pickup riders get MARTINIERE off the horse, and the horse has run around the arena, the two come face-to-face. The horse rears, MARTINIERE bows and salutes, and the horse runs past him. MARTINIERE glances right, then throws both fists high in the air. Pan to scoreboard showing GABE RAMIREZ in first place.)
(Back to MARTINIERE and BARKLEY, both smiling.)
MARTINIERE: Ah. Skydancer.
BARKLEY: I think you earned your highest scores riding that bronc.
MARTINIERE: I did. His descendants are still tossing riders.
BARKLEY: And the two of you saluted each other every time.
COLIGNY: So—why ride bucking horses? Beyond the issue of cruelty. Why?
MARTINIERE: (Chuckles). That horse was bred to buck. Notice how his ears are forward the whole time. He loved throwing riders off, just like his descendants do today. Throwing my leg over old Sky and others like him was fun. I’d talk to him before I got on, ask him if he felt like really showing off. Most of the time, he’d raise his head, look at me with his one blue eye, and snort a challenge. It was as much of a performance as riding my grandmother’s event horses. We’d get into a rhythm for eight seconds, matching each other’s flow. Then the buzzer went off, and he’d take off running. Some riders didn’t like it, but I did. I think that’s why Sky did some of his best bucking for me. It was an adrenaline rush that both of us enjoyed. (Shrugs) I suppose if I had apprenticed at the Spanish Riding School and started riding the airs above the ground, I would have experienced the same thrill. Or not.
COLIGNY: Would you have ridden bucking horses if you had remained Gabriel Martiniere?
MARTINIERE: Probably not. (Sighs) There would not have been the time, and I suspect that there would have been Family concerns about injury. And I would not have met Ruby. That would have been a very great loss.
COLIGNY: So the thrill of it was the biggest appeal?
MARTINIERE: (Purses lips thoughtfully, cants his head to the side for a moment.) It takes skill. Balance. It was an athletic challenge. But there was a relationship there, too. Sky knew me away from the chute. He’d come over to the fence for a scratch when I’d walk by the pen he was in, nicker at me if I didn’t stop to pet him. You could put a little kid up on his back and he wouldn’t buck, but act as calm and steady as any kid’s horse. Wouldn’t do that with an adult, and if he was in the chute with bucking tack on, you’d better be ready to ride.
COLIGNY: How do you think riding bucking horses has affected your approach to—well—business strategy?
MARTINIERE: (Smiles coolly). It has made me able to ride out a lot of storms. I did not always stay on, and I got slammed hard into the ground a few times. Sometimes all you can do is get up, dust yourself off, make sure nothing’s broken, and move on.
COLIGNY: Speaking of dusting yourself off and moving on—your marriages.
(Video: Young MARTINIERE and BARKLEY kissing in wedding ceremony, then getting on horses and riding away. MARTINIERE kissing a dark-haired woman in a traditional white wedding dress—RACHEL ALVAREZ. MARTINERE and BARKLEY kissing again in a different wedding ceremony)
MARTINIERE: I have been married a few times, yes. We have dealt with the breakup of my first marriage to Ruby, and I have no interest in discussing that further.
COLIGNY: And Rachel Alvarez?
MARTINIERE: (Clasps hands, rests elbows on knees, leans forward, looking down. Silence for 30 seconds. Sits back up with a sigh.) At that time, Ruby, the woman I loved and still love deeply, the mother of my son, could barely stand to talk to me because of circumstances that—well, Mariah Meyers has spoken about them. Rachel was one of the bankers I worked with to finalize my purchase of Moondance Ranch. We were both lonely, both hurt by past breakups—Rachel’s ex-fiancé dropped her in the middle of cancer treatment. Were we each other’s first choice and most passionate love? No. And we both knew that. She and I found comfort in each other, understood each other, and that was sufficient. Rachel could not have children. But she was thrilled to have Brandon as a stepson, and loved him dearly.
(Another pause, MARTINIERE leaning forward again.)
MARTINIERE: When cancer returned? As bad as the divorce from Ruby was, it was equally horrific to watch cancer eat away at Rachel. Only longer and more protracted. And her death from the G9 virus—
(Silence as MARTINIERE shakes his head. BARKLEY rests her hand on MARTINIERE’S back. MARTINIERE sits back up, and takes her hand. They smile at each other.)
MARTINIERE: As for my third marriage, each and every day, I am thankful that not only did Ruby allow me back into her life, but that I could marry her as who I truly am. Ruby is my greatest and dearest love, and my heart and soul belong to her. She is the mother of our children, both natural and adopted, the grandmother of our granddaughter, the Matriarch to my Martiniere. I would not be who I am today without Ruby.
BARKLEY: Thank you, Gabe.
MARTINIERE: It’s true. (Kisses her hand). You made me something more than just another Martiniere heir.
(Glares at COLIGNY)
MARTINIERE: You wanted to go behind the scenes with Gabriel Martiniere? That is my deepest core; my love for my wife, my children, and my family. That is who I am. That has shaped my actions and choices.
COLIGNY: (coughing) Children. Michael, your younger adopted son.
(BARKLEY and MARTINIERE stiffen)
MARTINIERE: Michael is a family member who is under our guardianship. That is all we will say on that subject.
(MARTINIERE flicks his free hand)
MARTINIERE: Brandon can speak for himself.
(BRANDON MARTINIERE enters the room, his wife KRIS MARKEY on his arm. BRANDON bows to MARTINIERE while MARKEY and BARKLEY exchange cheek kisses. MARTINIERE rises to kiss his daughter-in-law’s cheek while BRANDON kisses his mother’s hand. MARKEY and BRANDON sit in chairs that have been placed next to BARKLEY.)
COLIGNY: So. What was it like to suddenly learn that you were a Martiniere?
BRANDON: (Smiles, shakes head) It happened under some very interesting circumstances. I had wondered about my father’s history. We had some experiences that made me aware that he was more than simply Gabe Ramirez.
COLIGNY: Fascinating. Care to tell us more?
COLIGNY: What about the AgInnovator?
BRANDON: My experiences working on the AgInnovator solidified my desire to end indentured servitude even before Kris and I met there. Both my mother and my father were strongly opposed to indenture, but I had little to no exposure to indentured workers until I worked on the AgInnovator.
COLIGNY: So why did you accept employment by the AgI?
BRANDON: I worked on both of my parents’ ranches while growing up. Even with modern technology, it is a hard, demanding life. I saw what winning both the Innovator for one year and the Star Innovator for five did for what they were trying to accomplish with agricultural technology. I knew that AgI made a difference, despite its flaws.
COLIGNY: Care to speak to those flaws?
BRANDON: Unfortunately, I am still bound by a non-disclosure agreement with AgI.
COLIGNY: And now you’re a Martiniere heir.
BRANDON: (Laughs). Yes. And I’m busier than I ever was as a producer on the AgSuperhero competition. Besides my responsibilities as the Martiniere-in-waiting, Kris and I are organizers of the Biobot Producers Alliance, an organization seeking to help farmers and ranchers optimize the use of biobots on agricultural land and access independent financing. Kris and I coordinate the Stop Indenture Study Group for the New Democratic Party. We also do media production for the New Democratic Party.
COLIGNY: So would you go back to being Brandon Ramirez?
BRANDON: (Laughs). You’re joking, right? No. I have the financing and the ability to do the work I’ve always dreamed about. Yes, I have great responsibility as Brandon Martiniere. I also have the power and the funding to make changes happen. Brandon Ramirez would never have had the means to accomplish a fraction of what I am doing now.
COLIGNY: In one of your ‘casts, you allege that you were on the brink of being forced into indenture yourself. Care to say more about that?
BRANDON: Yes, I was, and no, I don’t.
(Edited transcript here)
(Video: A younger BARKLEY riding a palomino mare into the Grand Entry for the Pendleton Round-Up. BARKLEY’s crowning as Miss Rodeo Oregon. BARKLEY riding a palomino mare around a barrel. BARKLEY and MARTINIERE, holding hands with JEFF SWAIT, raising their hands together in victory at the AgSuperhero. BARKLEY, dressed in an elegant black gown with green and gold accents, along with the Martiniere emeralds, appearing on a red carpet. BARKLEY and MARTINIERE, both elegantly dressed, appearing together on a red carpet)
COLIGNY: And now. Ruby Barkley. Rodeo queen. Barrel racer. Agricultural robotics designer. Rancher. Wife of Gabriel Martiniere, twice.
BARKLEY: (Nods). Programmer. Mother. Grandmother. The Matriarch of the Martinieres. Businesswoman.
COLIGNY: You are many things, aren’t you?
COLIGNY: So why rodeo? Why the beauty pageant? That is what rodeo queening is all about, isn’t it?
BARKLEY: (Laughs). Well, for one thing, being a rodeo queen was a family tradition. My grandmother Ruth and my great-grandmother Margaret were Thunder County Days Queens. We’ll see if Lily follows the same path. And, well, rodeo queening has elements of beauty pageants. But they also require a degree of horsemanship as well as sales ability. Part of the process of winning the Thunder County Days Queen involved selling tickets to the rodeo. More tickets sold meant more points toward becoming Queen.
COLIGNY: I didn’t know that.
BARKLEY: It’s not true for every rodeo. But I also represented Pendleton, and Thunder County, and Oregon at other rodeos when I was wearing each organization’s crown. That was part of the job. Performing community service projects. Those positions earned me scholarship money, so that along with scholarships I earned in tech competitions in high school, I was able to pay for college without going into debt. I also worked for Lora Smith at her Corvallis stable. Mostly feeding, mucking, schooling young horses, and giving lessons. But I also was able to ride young horses in training at schooling shows. I learned a lot riding with Lora.
COLIGNY: Lora Smith, the US Olympic medalist in eventing?
COLIGNY: So why didn’t you attempt to ride in the Olympics instead of rodeoing?
BARKLEY: Family needs and money. I did not have the funds, the horses, nor the sponsorships to take up any of the English disciplines at a high competitive level. Additionally, my grandmother was very ill, and my grandfather needed help on the ranch. Rodeoing allowed me to perform at a high level without needing to travel very far, and I had easy access to good barrel trainers. Friends also loaned me horses after I had established myself with winning rodeo titles.
COLIGNY: (looks at notes) Hmm. You also placed well in Future Farmers of America, 4H, and high school agricultural robotics competitions.
BARKLEY: (smiles) I enjoy programming and design. Alas, these days I don’t often get to do as much of it as I would like. Especially with Gabe. We work together well, but these days we need to be administrators more than inventors.
COLIGNY: So you and Gabriel work together?
BARKLEY: Yes. Gabe helped create the foundations of the RubyBot, including the growbox package. I refined it and wrestled with it after our divorce, and Gabe returned to working on it with me after we remarried. Our skills are very complimentary.
COLIGNY: I’ve not visualized a farmer or rancher as being very high-tech.
BARKLEY: You need to observe what is happening on operations like the one that our partner Jeff Swait is running with his family’s Swait Farms. We’re the alternative to indentured labor programs. Our goal is to help smaller farms be more competitive with larger operations. I’ve managed to keep the Double R Ranch going through difficult financial times, even though it’s a relatively small operation. I want to share that knowledge and ability with others.
COLIGNY: You’ve mentioned your partnership with Jeff Swait. Can you tell us more about your business work?
BARKLEY: First, Gabe and I are partners in Barkley-Martiniere Associates. That includes the products of the Double R Ranch Labs, Inc and Moondance Microbials. Then the two of us are in partnership with Jeff Swait to produce biobots which contain various aspects of our combined products as part of our AgSuperhero victory. The merger of the RubyBot and the Swaitbot. Moondance Knockdown. Amongst others. Each operation has its own focus, but Barkley-Martiniere-Swait seeks to combine it all. These all function independently of the Martiniere Group. I am the CEO of Barkley-Martiniere, and the CFO of Barkley-Martiniere-Swait. Gabe is pretty much a silent partner due to his responsibilities as the Martiniere.
COLIGNY: Wow. That’s quite a list, and high-powered.
BARKLEY: (Smiles enigmatically, and inclines her head) I’m not exactly the hick hayseed rodeo queen that popular media portrays me as being.
COLIGNY: How did becoming a Martiniere affect you? Would you change anything about it? How much of a culture shock is it?
BARKLEY: (Gazes off in the distance for a moment, then refocuses) I wouldn’t call it a culture shock. There’s life on the Double R, there’s life at Moondance, there’s life here in Paris. I compartmentalize a lot.
COLIGNY: But there has to be an impact.
BARKLEY: Honestly? I think the biggest impact, besides sudden financial stability beyond my wildest dreams, was learning about life in a large family. I was an only child. My mother’s brothers were killed in military service and did not have children. The Martinieres are a large family that for business and personal reasons remain close to each other. That was my biggest adjustment—that I have a sister-in-law, a grandmother-in-law, and a lot of cousins by marriage. Many, many more cousins than I could have imagined.
COLIGNY: But the money? The culture?
BARKLEY: Not needing to worry about finances was a difference. Having a reason to buy high-end clothing and good quality equipment is nice. But I’m a very practical person. When I’m on the Double R, I won’t be wearing couture or bespoke attire. I spend a lot of time working and I’ll wear what’s appropriate for the situation. Sometimes that’s jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. Other times that’s high-end couture. And culture? I do enjoy being able to enjoy certain events live rather than virtual. But I’ve tried to take in dance and music when I could, even when working on the ranch. We are civilized in Thunder County, after all. There’s always been a literary, musical, and artistic community there, as well as ranchers and farmers.
COLIGNY: And Gabriel?
BARKLEY: (Smiling). Yes. Gabe.
COLIGNY: Would things have been different if you had known who he really was earlier?
BARKLEY: There would not have been a divorce, and Philip would have been dealt with sooner. (Inhales. Long, slow exhale.) I understand why Gabe chose not to tell me who he was. I don’t agree with his reasoning, even now, but I recognize that protection was his rationale, and appreciate that his motives were well-intentioned.
MARTINIERE: I was stupid and scared. I regret that choice daily. I regret the years we lost by being apart.
BARKLEY: What’s done is done. What matters is that we are together, now.
MARTINIERE: Besides, our son, my sister, my grandmother, and a whole raft of cousins will kick me in the rear if I ever make a stupid mistake like leaving you. Again. (Takes BARKLEY’S hand and kisses it. BARKLEY smiles at him.)
BARKLEY: The advantage of a large family.
COLIGNY: And you are the Matriarch of the Martinieres. What exactly does that entail?
BARKLEY: Many things that I can’t talk about. But. The parts I can talk about include responsibility for overseeing the work of the Martiniere Foundation that Gabe and I have established, with a focus on helping newly freed indentured workers rebuild normal lives. Coordinating Family events. Since I am the wife of the Martiniere, I represent Gabe at Martiniere Group functions that he is unable to attend. We are a working partnership with many ambitious goals, and it takes the two of us working together to achieve them.
COLIGNY: I have heard there is much more to the Matriarch than that.
BARKLEY: And that goes into those many things I am not allowed to talk about.
COLIGNY: The power behind the Martiniere.
BARKLEY: One could say that.
COLIGNY: But no further details?
BARKLEY: No further details.
COLIGNY: Not even about mind control?
BARKLEY: Gabe speaks to that, and only Gabe. I stand by what I have already said.
COLIGNY: So, Ruby, would you agree with Gabriel that his love for you, your children, and your family reflects his deepest core, his deepest self?
(MARTINIERE takes BARKLEY’S hand once more and kisses it).
COLIGNY: So there you have it. Gabriel Martiniere—in the words of his wife—cowboy, rancher, and sophisticate who at heart is devoted to his wife and family. This has been Nick Coligny going Behind the Scenes with Gabriel Martiniere. Stay tuned for the next Times Video Supplement, with Cory Rand—a hard look at the current status of the European Union—Success or Failure?
Brandon, Justine and Gabe’s uncle Gerard joined Ruby and Gabe as they stood up after the cams switched off and Coligny turned to talk to his production staff. They had been watching and had helped intervene when Coligny wanted to push harder for answers.
“Very nicely done, Gabriel and Ruby,” Gerard said.
“I told the Board that no one would object to our performance,” Gabe said, loosening his tie with one hand as he held Ruby’s hand with the other, rocking his head back and forth. “What do you think, Ruby?”
Ruby frowned. “We did a decent job of it. I certainly hope that this interview puts an end to all of those ‘hick hayseed rodeo queen’ slurs.”
Brandon patted her shoulder. “You’re always going to have to deal with that, Ma. All the same, you got some zingers in. And Justine, it was a damn good idea to have Mariah and Alexander pop in after that divorce video.”
“Still had to fight with Coligny about wanting to probe further,” Justine grumbled. “And about mind control.”
“Always going to have that,” Gerard echoed Brandon absently, gazing over at the clot of video staff. “Which is why it was a good idea to have us here to help run interference. And now we do have Coligny coming over.”
Nick Coligny joined them. Ruby surveyed him cautiously. Coligny was young, hungry, and ambitious—as he’d demonstrated during the parts of the interview she devoutly hoped were excised from the final version.
And he’s attractive to a certain subtype of urban and sophisticate viewers, she reminded herself. Not her preference, however. Intense, the sort of soft pale skin over narrow face that suggested he didn’t spend much time outdoors. Neatly sculpted black hair shaped into a wedge. Narrow dark tie.
Ruby hadn’t liked the way they’d had to wrangle to get Coligny to leave certain topics alone during the interview—she suspected that if he decided to write something about the interview to go along with the video, he’d be focusing on those points. Unless Brandon and Gerard alternately sweet-talked and threatened him out of it.
Gotta live with the media, she reminded herself.
Coligny bowed to them. “Good interview, but damn, you two are tough.”
Ruby let herself give him a partial smile. “It’s not exactly the first interview-go-round for either of us.”
Coligny laughed, loud and forced. “Might I ask some follow-up questions?”
“No,” Brandon said before either Gabe or Ruby could react. “You know the terms. Video only. Limited questioning. You pushed the parameters.”
“You’d have done the same thing if it were your interview,” Coligny said.
Brandon shrugged. “And I’m working from this side right now.”
Another loud, forced laugh. “Very true. Well, if you ever get tired of the Martiniere life….”
Brandon laughed and slapped Coligny on the back. “Unlikely but I appreciate the offer. Good job.”
“I’m ready to go back upstairs and let Bran handle the rest of this,” Gabe said quietly. “Ruby?”
Justine followed Ruby and Gabe out of Gerard’s library and up the stairs to the penthouse often occupied by the Martiniere and his closest family during Paris visits.
“I’m glad Gerard and Brandon were there,” she said as they entered the common living area. “That helped with the difficult parts—but damn. Journalists!”
A loud cheer came from the other big suite in the penthouse—Mikey and some of the young Martiniere cousins had been dispatched there to keep them out of the way during the interview, under the supervision of Alexander, Mariah, and the other cyborged brothers.
Ruby sighed. At least Mikey was occupied, but—
She raised her brows at Gabe, and he rolled his eyes. Now that they were away from Coligny, he looked tired. All that dancing around difficult questions, even with Brandon, Justine, and Gerard present to help divert problems, made the interview exhausting.
“Why don’t you two go ahead and have some quiet time,” Justine said. “You both look worn-out. I’ll help herd the kids.”
“Thanks, Tine,” Gabe said, slipping his arm around Ruby as they went into the Martiniere’s private suite.
Once they were safely alone, Gabe took Ruby into his arms, and they leaned into each other. Gabe buried his head into the junction of Ruby’s neck and shoulder, one of his favorite places when he sought comfort from her. She rested her head against his, holding him tight.
At last Gabe sighed and straightened up. “God. There were so damn many potential ticking bombs in those questions. I’m glad we had Bran, Tine, and Gerard handy to help argue through them. Interrogation training is not exactly the same thing as a media interview, especially when you’re thinking about corporate image.”
“We did it, though.” She’d gone through tough interviews before, but never had this level of support. Another new thing about the Martiniere life.
“Yeah.” Gabe nodded. “And Bran was able to help bury anything of significance about Rachel. Coligny wasn’t going to press me further after I talked about her death, but that question about why Brandon suspected that there was more to me than Gabe Ramirez? If he had answered, that would have opened a big can of worms about my history with Alvarez Armory, and why Rachel’s family cut me off after her death.”
“You’ve not talked about Alvarez Armory.” There were still things about their years apart that Ruby didn’t know. Gabe didn’t say much about those years with Rachel, unless she asked about them.
“Rachel’s family knew exactly who I was before she and I got involved.” Gabe sighed. “Rachel’s older brother Rafael—Rafe—ran Alvarez Armory. I ended up doing a lot of work with him to shut down Philip’s militia actions in the South and Southwest. Rafe was the brother I never had—and Bran worked with us sometimes.”
She scowled at him. “Gabe.” Another thing she hadn’t known.
“So did Serg. It was the closest I could do to replicate Martiniere heir training without talking about it. Bran needed it for his own safety.” Gabe stroked her cheek. “Alvarez Armory—and Rafe’s death—was why Rachel’s family cut me off so abruptly after her death. Rafe was murdered during one of our interventions, by Philip’s people, because I wasn’t there. I was the target, Rafe the secondary. Philip had performed light programming on Rachel’s other brother Rick and her father Hernan, so it was very easy for him to manipulate Hernan and Rick into blaming me in order to shut us down.”
“Oh, Gabe.” Damn it, now she knew why Gabe hadn’t said anything about Alvarez Armory until now. The loss of Rafe—and the break with Rachel’s family. That was the kind of thing he didn’t like to talk about.
“I finished the operation, along with Serg and Bran. It was a significant enough operation that I almost had Bran ask you to join us.”
“Me?” Flattering, but why?
“You have excellent shooting skills. Bran had my back, but I considered having you there to support Bran. He cared deeply for Rafe as his uncle, and I was afraid he’d be blinded by a desire for vengeance. As it turned out, Bran’s capable of compartmentalizing.”
“When was this?”
Bran would have still been in college, at the University of Oregon.
“I did notice he was rather moody that summer.”
“That would have been Rachel’s cancer. Rafe happened in September.”
Now that she remembered, Bran had been even more closed off whenever she saw him that fall, and at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“That explains a few things,” she said.
Gabe nodded. “Bran, Serg, and I made sure that Rafe’s killers were dead. Then Rachel, Bran, and I went to Rafe’s funeral. We were shunned by the family. I signed off on any further responsibility for Alvarez Armory—not what Rafe would have wanted—and turned everything over to Rick and Hernan. They never spoke to me—or Rachel—again, before they died from the G9.”
“Yeah. So you can understand why I did not want to go there in an interview.” Gabe exhaled. “No need to get into my record as a mercenary leader. I killed people. I hurt people. By my reasoning, they deserved it for what they were doing to others—but that’s not the public image that the Martiniere should have.”
“Agreed.” She’d suspected that Gabe had more shadows in his past than he’d revealed. Ruby kissed his cheek. “And now that part of your life is done.”
“Oh, Ruby.” Gabe shook his head, chuckling. “Not even flinching at the revelation that I killed and hurt people.”
“We got attacked by raiders and you took care of them years ago,” she reminded him. “And you did get into fights before I knew who you were.”
“True. I’m just grateful that you don’t run away screaming.”
“Way too late for that.” Ruby leaned against his chest.
Gabe chuckled again. “Ruby. Ah, Ruby, my love. I’m just glad we’re done with this. Yes, that interview needed to happen. Doesn’t mean I enjoyed it.”
Ruby smirked at him. “And that’s the man I married.”
She reached up and undid his tie, then loosed the top three buttons of his shirt. Gabe chuckled, deeper than before. He took the emeralds gently out of her ears and put them away in their box, then undid the heavy necklace and added it to the box, before unzipping the back of her dress. They undressed slowly but wordlessly, pausing frequently for kisses that grew deeper and more intense.
After making love, they spooned together under the covers, Ruby in Gabe’s arms.
“Do you ever wonder what it would have been like without the divorce?” she asked drowsily.
“Mmm.” Gabe nuzzled her neck. “Many times. Many, many times.” He sighed and gently urged her to face him. “I would have needed to tell you before we won the AgSuperstar. And if I told you—then I would have needed to go public as Gabriel Martiniere.”
“You couldn’t have just told me?”
He shook his head. “At the very least, I would have then wanted to claim my inheritance. It would have made so many things easier for us, then. And going public then would have opened up another big mess, because things blew up in the Family as a result of my testimony and—things I did to the indentured mind control programming before I left the labs. I found out that it got really bad before our divorce—part of what Philip wanted from me was a total repudiation of my testimony in US vs Martiniere Group. He claimed that I could do that and still collect my funds. But it would have meant…” His voice trailed off.
“Total denial of everything you stand for when it comes to indenture.” Ruby stroked his forehead.
Gabe nodded. “I was stupid about sticking to my principles. I should have done it, for you and Branny.”
“I would have been so pissed at you for selling out. Even for our sakes.”
“I still go back and forth about it.” He kissed her and sighed. “Ahhh, Ruby, the issue was more than what Philip wanted from me. No matter what, all of us would have been dragged into the fight, including your grandfather. As it were, I survived several assassination attempts before I settled on the Double R.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“I was a target, and terrified that something would happen to you and Bran. Every time I thought about telling you, I kept flashing back to memories of my parents and sister dying in that plane crash.” He shuddered. “Twelve years old. Staring at three closed coffins during the funeral Mass. I didn’t want to go through that with my second family.”
And there it was. She kissed him.
“I can’t talk about it very much, either,” he said. “Because what did happen was almost as traumatic. Selfish or protective? To this day I keep wondering.”
Ruby nodded, then pulled him close.
She’d learned even more about the man she loved this day.
More than one interview going on, she thought wryly. Maybe someday I’ll know all there is to understand about Gabriel Martiniere.
And maybe not. But she loved him anyway.
Exiled heir. Rebel. Husband. Father. In 2029, Gabriel Martiniere testified against the Martiniere Group's forced imposition of mind control programming on unwilling indentured workers. For his pains, he was forced into exile for over thirty years. Forced to divorce the love of his life. But he's still coming. Still bent on vengeance against the man who forced him into exile, Philip Martiniere. Gabe will win...or die trying.
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