A new entry in the Omicron Matter – A Second Meeting. Millicent and John Smith have started the second round of discussions. Smith has hinted that a third way may be possible in dealing with Earth. But the implications are far reaching and put Millicent in an unexpected position.
For those who are new to the Omicron Matter, the home page is a good place to start.
This section has an interesting plot twist that has been building and some of you may have predicted. Again, the more Millicent and Smith interact, the harder I find it to keep Smith utterly evil. Perhaps he has a heart somewhere under all that avarice. I have finished writing the next chapter and need to get it to my editor. I am hopeful (consulting speak for “if I am lucky”) that I will be able to start that chapter tomorrow. I welcome any comments or ideas.
A New Proposal
Millicent’s tea cup stopped on its way to her mouth. She asked, “What are you suggesting?”
Smith said, “Our planet might have been an example, but we are not the only one who chafe under the Guild’s yoke. And now the Guild is going to make another example for the ‘lesser members’.”
She set her tea cup down and hissed, “It’s madness to fight the Guild. Our planet is a worthless husk to prove the point.”
He hissed back, “Madness is letting the Guild run roughshod over anyone who threatens it’s cozy cartel. I am tired of being a sheep and shown where to go. And I am not the only one.”
Millicent leaned back and said, “You make it sound like you have an army. Who is with you?”
Smith leaned back himself and said, “Not an army as such. More like a coalition of folk and federations who are tired of a hoary council protecting entrenched interests by hiding behind ‘the betterment of all’. Their Omicron rules are a farce. The council is about to make another example with less justification and it’s just to show that it can.”
Millicent smirked and said, “Such speeches! That still doesn’t tell me if this coalition has a chance of succeeding or it is just a set of angry traders.”
John Smith opened his special notebook and tapped a page. He put it on the table and said, “Here is a list of the councils and traders who are ready to break away.”
Millicent picked up the notebook with a raised eyebrow and began scanning. The list of councils was impressive and represented a significant part of the galactic economy. More important, these were the councils poised for growth. They had produced new technologies. As such, they were the ones most impacted by Guild restrictions and Omicron rules. The list of traders was shorter, but there was a significance. She flushed for a moment and then looked up and asked, “Has anyone from home not signed on?”
John stared at her and said, “Just one.”
She set the book down. She was sure her hands were shaking but didn’t look. She said in a quiet voice, “Dear God. No one has breathed a word.”
Smith said, “The Guild caught wind of some early efforts and acted with its lack of finesse. We became much more cautious afterwards.”
Millicent looked at him with her eyes narrow and said, “No one told me.” She repeated loudly, “No one told me.”
Smith held up his thumb and finger and said, “Two reasons. First, you have been doing quite well under the current rules. Many, myself included, questioned whether you would be willing to ‘reform’ in a more drastic fashion. We couldn’t risk revealing ourselves to the Guild before we were ready. “
Millicent chuckled without mirth, “That is rich. You don’t trust me.”
Smith said in a measured tone, “Didn’t. The Guild forced my hand and yours.”
Millicent stood and moved to the window. She was sure she knew the second reason, but she asked anyway, “The second reason?”
Smith said, “Our families might have been rivals; we may have shot at each other; but I am not blind to the importance of symbols. The daughter of a deposed governor leading the new coalition could sway whole planets. The Guild isn’t blind either and they held you close. If they found us and you knew…there goes the symbol of the revolution. It was for your protection.”
Millicent stared up at the sky at a passing airship. She guessed it was a passenger vessel from the States. On the wharf, sailors scaled yards to set sails to dry. Others moved barrows to load cargo. The Guild would have everything stay at this level ‘for the good of all’.
She turned back and looked at him with her hands behind her back and said in a sharp voice, “Kidnapping Eleanor? Murdering her brother? Collaring Simone, Wayland and Carter-Fraser? Dammit, couldn’t you have just asked?”
Smith stayed relaxed as he said, “Morgaine, you protect this territory like a mother bear. An invading trader gets your attention. Miss Woodson’s brother was regrettable and I could claim that I did not order that. I won’t insult your intelligence with such claims. As for the others…I am a trader and I have my clientele. My clientele prefer their workers pacified.”
Millicent said with a harsh voice, “These will be my new coalition?”
Smith stood up himself and said, “Yes. You get the pirates and reprobates as well as the fastest advancing civilizations this arm of the galaxy. Make your choice, Morgaine. The Guild, with all its rules still hasn’t eliminated those practices you despise. Stick with it and maybe…MAYBE the untidy elements you despise so much will be brought in line. Don’t hold your breath; they pay taxes. But you and I both know that your beloved pet project will be a wasteland long before that happens.” He got closer to her and said in a low voice, “Or join us. Protect this backwater of savant simians. Maybe…MAYBE you can control those supposed disreputable practices.” He leaned back and smiled, “Don’t count on my support – they are quite profitable.”
Millicent turned back to the window and said, “What’s changed from our childhood? Why will this be different? What’s to say we don’t join our parents in pointless martyrdom?”
Smith said, “The Guild has made enemies and we’re collecting them. It won’t one be planet against the allies of the Guild. We will have the advantage of those wonderful devices from your contractors and countless innovations suppressed and yet kept over the years. And, if you agree, we have the perfect symbol for delivering our message.”
Millicent said quietly, “I haven’t said yes.”
Smith looked at his fingernails and said, “Even if you say no, you won’t betray our cause. That is why I can’t be the leader. Apparently others don’t trust me as much as they trust you. The coalition members seem to agree on that one point. If you say no, we’ll simply carry out the Guild directives. ”
Millicent winced and said, “I have to think.”
Smith said, “Of course you do. I’ll send you the Guild contract to review the details. You’ll see how they plan to divide the planet and distribute the inhabitants. But don’t think too long. Even though the Guild isn’t expecting an answer for years, the longer we wait, the more we lose the element of surprise. And I can’t guarantee that they haven’t lost trust in me. If you decline, we execute the contract.”