[personal profile] walk_ins





It lands on the dinner-table, the light-weight reader clacking gently against the centrepiece and knocking over the salt cellar.

A moment of silence.

"You think we don't know?"

Chair-legs scraping; someone sitting down. The restaurant is expensive but dim, its staff and clientele discreet. If anyone recognises the new arrival (they do), or overhears his conversation (they don't), they give no indication.

"I was beginning to think you might not, as a matter of fact."

"We are the ones taking a fourteen percent hit. You may have noticed."






Gabriel Tam and his Interplanetary Infrastructure and Guardianship Act: the thorn in Fred Atwood's side; the creeping, sneaking, encroaching threat that keeps the good Senator up at night, worrying for the fate of the 'verse.

Some people find it hard to believe that Senator Atwood - once General Atwood, decorated veteran and luminary of the Allied forces during the war of Unification - is a pacifist. But it was General Atwood who came forward during the war's darkest hour, after the Battle of Serenity Valley, to negotiate the armistice, wasn't it? And wasn't he amongst the foremost minds to conceive a plan, a glorious experiment, to end the twin diseases of aggression and warfare for good? Though of course, few enough know about his role in that, despite the scandals of the past few years. And for that, Senator Fred Atwood is profoundly grateful. There is still so much to be done, rú guǒ lăotiān xǔ kěn de huà. So very much good work to be done.

He has a responsibility, Atwood knows. They all do. The border planets, strongholds of the Browncoat forces, suffered badly in the war; they're still a long way from recovering what meagre wealth and prosperity they once possessed. The Alliance has a duty to oversee this process, to help and to guide. Unification, after all, was undertaken in the spirit of brotherhood. They were building better worlds. All of them. But there again, another problem: human beings are the slowest of all to change, and to accept change, and even now the Rimwards planets, where people scratch a living from the dust, are hotbeds of Independent sentiment. Those who govern, Atwood believes, have an obligation to extend a hand and lead the poor and the misguided into the shining world of peace and prosperity promised by the Alliance. But first - first they have to learn. And they have not. No indeed, they have not.

And no matter the danger lurking beyond in the black, the unfortunate byproduct of the Miranda Plan, Senator Fred Atwood cannot conceive of a worse idea, of anything more threatening to the hard-won unification, than equipping bloody-minded and fanatical Browncoats with infrastructure, with weapons, with (God help them all) fortifications.

There's something wrong with the body politic.

Luckily for the 'verse, Fred Atwood is a man with a plan.





"What I want to know is whether anything is being done. If what we - "

"Yes."

Silence again. Atwood is not a man who likes being interrupted.

"It doesn't seem that way. There's nothing about it in there." A meaty, ruddy hand waves briefly at the reader, the latest newsfeeds still scrolling across its screen. "Hasn't been for two weeks."

"There will be." Still that slimy, frustratingly patient tone.

"Oh?"

"Tomorrow."

"Good."





Pause; waiters; food.





The border planets must learn their place. This is imperative. And until then, equally important is that his colleagues - Gabriel Tam and anyone foolish or incautious or willfully blind enough to vote in favour of measures like the IIGA - be made to understand that they have not. That the Rim is feckless, separatist, dangerous; that unrest and disobedience simmer just below the surface. All it needs is something - or someone - to bring it out.

Then everyone will understand.





"As to our other, ah, endeavour, we thought you might like to hear that we are very close to - no?"

"No. Plausible deniability. With Bentley out of the game, my backing will get you the contracts. But I don't want to know how you're going to do it."






Like all senior politicians, Senator Atwood has a wry understanding of how Parliament operates. If the IIGA is to be overturned (and it will be), it will take tenacity, red tape, and time. His wife (four years dead, he realised recently) used to say that. It's the sort of phrase that sticks. Their primary obstacle: Gabriel Tam, propped up since the beginning of his popularity contest of a campaign by Bentley Aeronautics. Damage the latter and the former will teeter; tarnish the reputation of one and the other will come away grubby, suffering by association.

And just as vital: if Bentley loses trust, loses public standing, they will also lose - necessarily, and as a matter of moral conscience - the government building contracts under the IIGA. And North Central Positronics will win them.

Thus: North Central (subsidiary of Blue Sun) will control the outflow resources to the border planets. Thus: Fred Atwood will control the outflow of resources to the border planets. Thus: under Fred Atwood's judicious and careful eye, everything will stay - safe. Safe, and slow, and undeveloped, until Parliament consigns the IIGA to the archives of unfortunate mistakes.

(And since Atwood considers himself an honest sort, he is forced to admit to himself that the financial perks aren't to be sneezed at either.)

Of course, Atwood is not a stupid man. He knows perfectly well what this assault on Bentley's reputation may involve; that this deal involved the disclosure to North Central Positronics of certain dossiers pertaining to the Miranda Plan. But so it goes.

(His wife used to say that, too.)

And Atwood knows other things as well - he knows that, having been told nothing, he has an escape route, a back door, plausible deniability (for if he, Senator Atwood, is removed from the game, who then will safeguard the many from the villainies of the few?). And he knows what he has always known: that sometimes, for the greater good, sacrifices must be made.

That for people to learn, sometimes they must first be taught.







"When?"

"Soon."

Fred Atwood nods, turning to his venison, and tries not to watch his dining companions eat.
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walk_ins

November 2009

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