I said this yesterday, but it’s worth saying again. The best part, for me, in doing these introductions is it gives me a reason to read the chapters; and, since I read the chapters, I find I’m learning things about the events swirling around me which I didn’t know beforehand.
Take this one. It’s set on Ceres, and it’s a meeting between Tamara and Anne Marie. I got to know both of them extremely well, later on, but at the time of these events? I couldn’t have picked them out if I’d run them over. Absolute ignorance.
And of course, they don’t particularly think that the little meetings and discussions that went into their decision were worth reporting, not in any detail. So I knew, for example, that Anne Marie had been transported to our meeting on the Roosa; I didn’t know how much legwork she’d put into it, behind the scenes, to cover her tracks. And theirs.
Don’t forget to pre-order your copy at half price; the cost will go up on Release Day, so get the deal now! (You can just click on any image below to order.) And Adam’s giving away a complete set of paperbacks, signed, so you can enter to win that too. Enjoy the chapter!
Ceres, Miner’s Guild
“Moderator, Representative Lusardi begs a moment of your time.”
Kumlien looked up from her pile of work with something akin to gratitude. It would never do to let Anne Marie see it, of course, but while she enjoyed wielding the power of the Moderator’s office she resented the time the details took in handling.
“I will grant her time,” she said, formally.
A moment later, Lusardi entered and the door closed behind her.
“Representative Lusardi,” Kumlien said, sticking to the formalities.
“Knock it off, Tamara,” replied Lusardi. “I’ve known you too long to do this silly dance every time I drop in to see you.” She glided into the chair and subtly secured herself. With a gravity less than 3% of Earth’s, such things were necessary to prevent accidentally pushing off and bumping into walls.
“Yes, alright,” agreed Kumlien. “What do you need, Anne Marie?”
“The Roosa is docked,” she said, referring to one of the Artemis naval craft which regularly visited Ceres and the other outposts. Ostensibly it was to provide services and support from the heart of the Union to its more distant members; in reality it was a not-so-subtle reminder of the strength of Artemis. The Roosa, after all, was an Artemesian ship, not a Union ship.
“Yes. They’ve been here several days, and will be here a few days longer.”
“That’s longer than their usual layover,” Lusardi pointed out.
“Their captain asked for extended shore leave,” answered Kumlien, wondering where this was going but willing to play along for now.
“That’s what they’re telling everyone,” agreed Lusardi.
“You think there’s something else to it?” A potential threat from Artemis would be a bit unexpected, but not unusual.
“Not the way you think. You really need to get out with the people more, Tamara. Mingle. Listen.”
“I’ll take it under advisement,” she said humorlessly. “But then, how would I be any different from you?”
“Touché,” said Lusardi. “What you’ve missed, being cooped up in this office, are some interesting tidbits.”
As if you don’t want this office, Kumlien didn’t say aloud.
“For example. Did you know that Artemis has lost another Minister of War?”
“I did; it was part of their official dispatches. Clumsy of them. That’s, what, two in a half-year?”
“Do you remember anything about it?” Lusardi pressed. Kumlien frowned, trying to remember the details.
“Something about the previous one stepping down for reasons of health, her job complete, full confidence in her deputy to carry on their mission. The usual rubbish.”
“She didn’t step down.”
“No, they never do, not with that Primus. She’s either in the recyclers or somewhere on the surface, I imagine.”
“She’s taken up with the Federation,” said Lusardi, a triumphant grin on her face.
“What?” Kumlien didn’t try to hide her surprise and only the straps on her own chair kept her from popping up.
“According to the Roosa’s Helmsman, a woman named Hendrickson, just about the time the Minister ‘retired’, the Roosa picked up a couple passengers. They were some sort of VIPs who didn’t identify themselves. Then the Roosa made a rendezvous in deep space with one of the Federation shuttles. And the VIPs magically disappeared.”
“That doesn’t prove anything. You know how spacers talk.”
“Oh, I do,” said Lusardi. “A couple of my husbands are spacers. They’d lie about the vacuum content of space. So I went and found their Captain, a Lieutenant Gonzalez, and leaned on her just a little bit.”
“Anne Marie, you have no right to apply pressure to the officers and personnel of another star nation!”
“And they have no right to lie to us. It all works out. Gonzalez confirmed the story, Tamara. It was their Minister of War, Nicole Crozier, aboard the Roosa, and she and her companion both boarded the shuttle. The shuttle then headed for their habitat; her tactical officer tracked them as far as his sensors could follow.”
“And it’s our opening.”
Kumlien thought she knew where this was going, but wanted to be sure. “Go on.”
“We can’t be seen communicating directly with the Federation.”
“And this isn’t the sort of thing that can be done remotely. It needs the personal touch, which is why you chose me.”
“I’m thinking that, if Roosa did it once, they can do it again. Take me with them, meet with another shuttle, and I’m on my way to open those negotiations.”
“Are they willing?”
“I don’t know; I didn’t ask. Thought you might appreciate being in on the conversation.”
Kumlien considered this. Adding her weight to the discussion might make Captain Gonzalez more willing to break her nation’s laws again. On the other hand, the less she knew, the less she was directly involved, the easier it would be to hang Lusardi out to dry if this all turned sour.
Lusardi seemed to pick up on her thoughts.
“You’re already officially tied up in this by your silly vote with the Negotiators,” she said. “You can’t keep this quiet forever. But I don’t need you babysitting me; tell me I can look into it and I’ll do the rest.”
Kumlien decided. It wasn’t much of a choice, in any case. “Do it. Get with our communications network and see what they have for you. I want you to stay in touch through our systems, not the Federation’s.” Lusardi unstrapped, the motion causing her to drift slightly upward. She changed that into a deliberate rise. “Always a pleasure, Moderator.”