Chapter 13 A Second Meeting


Created by Anita Tabaczkikewicz http://hekatesatoshi.deviantart.com/

Created by Anita Tabaczkikewicz http://hekatesatoshi.deviantart.com/

At the Hotel

Millicent had locked herself in her room after her meeting with John Smith.  She had not done that since telling Mordechai about Rachael’s injuries. The hours crept by. John and Rachael returned and reported their meeting but she remained in her room. Slowly, people retired to their rooms. Liam had remained in the lounge stubbornly.  He knocked on her door and asked, “Join me for a night cap?” Initially there was no answer. Then she came out looking drawn. Liam commented as she passed him to the lounge, “Tain’t healthy when you lock yourself away.”

Millicent stopped but did not turn around and said, “I’ve gotten along fine without a minder for a very long time, Mr. O’Hannigan. I don’t need one now.”

Liam closed her door and said to her back, “I ain’t being a minder. I’m being a friend. Ask Charles for the definition.”

The notebook commented,

  1. A person one knows, likes and trusts
  2. A person who one knows; an acquaintance.
  3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade

Millicent tapped the notebook and said, “Enough, Charles.” She turned to Liam and said, “I suspect you two would hit it off eventually. You are too much alike…”

Her further comments were drowned out by  the notebook protesting, “No call for insults…”

Liam stayed quiet for a moment and said, “I’ll let the last one pass because what he said before was true. You’ve got friends, Miss Morgaine.  Smith doesn’t. And right now I am hoping you are ready to test that ‘trust’ part of the word.”

Millicent sat in a chair and placed the notebook between them. She asked the notebook, “Charles, how much does he know?”

The notebook said, “just about everything.”

Liam added, “Except what you’re thinking.”

Millicent slumped back in her chair and said, “There are no good choices left.”  Liam got up and poured out whisky in two tumblers and handed one to her.

He asked, “How bad are the ones left?”

Millicent waved a hand up in the air and said, “Oh let’s see. I just walk away and the Guild sucks your planet dry and I get nothing. Or I deal with Smith and the Guild sucks you dry except what I can preserve and I get a tidy profit.  I suppose I could not negotiate with Smith and the Guild fights me.  I lose everything and the Guild sucks your planet dry.”

Liam snarled, “The bastard’s sold us out.”

Millicent was quiet. Then she said, “That is what is strange. I don’t think he wants to. Oh he gets a piece of the pie. But he is negotiating because he is being forced.  I am not sure it was his idea to set up trade here.”

Liam said, “Tain’t nothing you can say to change matters?”

“Smith is right. They haven’t changed their minds in decades. Centuries maybe. I will try, but it is doubtful.”

Liam was quiet for a bit took a drink.  Millicent had closed her eyes. He asked, “When you go to the bridge; when you hide in the room  …does it help?”

Millicent smiled warmly, “Maybe yes; maybe no. Sometimes it is nice to see my home. It reminds me of happier times.”

Liam asked, “You going back tomorrow?”

She took a deep breath and said, “I don’t’ have much choice. Negotiation for some preservation seems to be all that is left.”

Arrival at The Duke of Wellington

The rain and the sleet of the day before had given way to sunshine and cold. Icicles hung long from roofs and ledges. The rigging of ships on the wharf glistened in the sun.  Liam’s breath came out in great gouts of steam as they walked along the road. He and Millicent walked at a leisurely pace.

At the hotel, Alfred Redman greeted them grinning mischievously. Liam muttered, “He seems chipper for someone one facing the apocalypse.”

Millicent said, “Maybe Rachael’s talks went better than Smith and mine.”

Liam grumbled and Millicent left him with Redman once again. At least it wasn’t raining today.

After Millicent left, he heard Redman say, “She’s right. I think our talks last night went better than theirs.”

Liam looked over at Redman and said, “I’m bored and we have time…why do you think yours went better?”

Redman leaned back on the rail and said, “My first goal was to get to the point of working together in some fashion.” Liam snorted, but Redman held up a hand and said, “You know what’s happening. If we don’t end up working together, do you think any of this will be left?”

Liam looked around.  Then he said, “not sure it will be if we do.”

Redman said, “I’ll take long odds instead of no odds.”

Liam crossed his arms and frowned saying, “You’re worse than Charles and John  with your logic.”

Redman laughed and said, “I will take that as the compliment of the day.” He rummaged in his long coat and pulled out a deck of cards and said, “Care to play while we wait?”

In the Tea Room

Millicent left her coat at the check room and headed to the dining room. John Smith was waiting there. A tea service was already in place. He was reading a paper while drinking a cup. Millicent sat opposite him and put a notebook down on the table. Smith said nothing. He folded the paper and then poured her a cup of the smoky Lapsang Souchang.  Millicent prepared her tea and the spoon clinked in the silence. Finally she said, “I suppose I should hear their offer.”

Smith said, “That’s it? No tirade. No outrageous demands. I really had hoped for a bit more of a bargaining session. You don’t even know what the options are.”

Millicent squinted one eye and said, “Options? What options?  Deal and get some paltry amount of control or don’t deal and get nothing.”

Smith put his hands out and said, “Yesterday, I said you had choices. Indulge me. What are your choices?”

Millicent put her cup down and folded her hands and looked at him for a moment. Then she looked out the window and said, “The same as our planet had. Accept the deal, whatever you’ve brought, and have junior standing in the Guild. Or don’t accept the deal. The Guild comes in force, takes over and I lose everything.” She looked at him coldly.

Smith smiled saying, “Distasteful, isn’t it. And they sent me; your family nemesis to deliver the terms. You must be questioning if the Guild is on the side of the angels at this point.”

Millicent snapped, “The Guild has no sides least of all with angels. You’re enjoying this aren’t you?”

Smith raised his hands and shrugged as if he was caught and said, “Your discomfiture? Immensely. Delivering this shake down of a deal for a group of unimaginative boors? Not in the slightest.”

He poured some more tea for each of them and then said, “Winifred has designed and produced two additions to her new hand. Pitiful Neville helped her with the electronics.”

Millicent prepared her tea and said, “I shudder to think what she added.”

Smith laughed and said, “They are remarkably innocuous. An adjustable set of micro wrenches and a variable magnifier. Now her designs in development…” he wagged his finger, “Those will raise an eyebrow or two.”

Millicent looked up at the ceiling and said, “Please spare me the details. Besides if you are showing off, I should recommend a visit to Modechai’s Watch Shop.” Millicent pointed to the notebook on the table and said, “and then there are the three who managed to decode a good portion of that.”

Smith said with a smile, “If we left them alone, the potential for patent profits is simply staggering. And they seem so remarkably adaptable.”

Millicent stayed quiet for a bit and then asked, “I don’t suppose there is a clause in the Guild’s offer that keeps this all going?”

Smith drank his tea and grimaced saying, “Hardly. It is exactly what you should expect. If you agree, you can set up a few endeavors in some isolated locations. Everything else will be brought under Guild control. ‘For the good of all and the betterment of a lesser race’ is the justification clause.”

Millicent said bitterly, “Pompous, righteous, hypocritical, self-serving, ignorant asses”

Smith smiled and said, “My thoughts exactly.” He leaned forward and looked at her intently, “And quite a few others.”

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 probably 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 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 us 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.”

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John Smith In front of his house. Created by Anita Tabaczkiewicz at http://hekatesatoshi.deviantart.com/

John Smith In front of his house. Created by Anita Tabaczkiewicz at http://hekatesatoshi.deviantart.com/

4 thoughts on “Chapter 13 A Second Meeting

  1. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – A Second Meeting – Back At the Hotel | The Finder's Saga

  2. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – A Second Meeting – Arrival at the Meeting Place | The Finder's Saga

  3. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – A Second Meeting: In the Tea Room | The Finder's Saga

  4. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – A Second Meeting – A New Proposal | The Finder's Saga

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