Trouble Will Do
Dr. Clark Gabrin shook out his newspaper to read the headline better. He adjusted his glasses for the upteemth time and furrowed his bushy brows as he read. Things were not doing well with the HAC-Elysium negotiations. Elysia had been on the outs with the Council for a while now, and the situation had deteriorated from bad to worse.
His large, rough hand reached out from behind the paper to tap on the tabletop in front of him uncertainly until he finally bumped with a clatter into the miniscule saucer he had placed there to hold his equally miniscule teacup, which held his daily draught of energizing tea, an intensely concentrated, drink-at-your-own-risk concoction only Clark was brave enough to try.
"I'm sure the rising price of Elysium glass doesn't call for another sip of that poison," Will Danninger commented wryly.
Clark lowered his paper and peered over the top of his glasses at his friend and former schoolmate. Unlike Clark, Will preferred water and plain old coffee to anything else that had been invented since, a fairly sure sign of his American breeding. Clark came from the European states and preferred tea. His "unholy brew," as dorm mother Sarah Winston was prone to call it, had been lovingly and meticulously tweaked until Clark finally deemed it equivalent in flavor to an earl grey.
"It is not poison," he settled for intoning seriously. "This is a fine decantation of valuable stimulants and nutrients."
Will grinned at him. "Yeah. Sure."
Clark scowled and stood, clutching his paper to his stomach. "Just for that, I won't tell you about the situation in Elysia."
"Like anybody doesn't know about the situation in Elysia." Will shrugged. "The Council will pull something out of their hat, the way they always do. Nobody has ever seceded from the Alliance successfully. Not since Kippler's was first discovered and the star systems got charted."
That earned a pained grimace. "Grammar, my friend."
"Please." Will cast a rueful glance upward. "Renee's giving it to me with both barrels. She knows English perfectly well and decides now to go off the deep end, just in case she isn't fluent in her own native language in time to teach it this semester."
Clark laughed heartily. Renee had been a perfectionist from when all three of them were students here at Kailin and still uncertain of what they wanted to do with their lives. But then, Will had been strait-laced and prone to hate change, and still was, and Clark had been a neurotic nerd—and still was. Seemed some things never changed.
He sat back down and sipped on his 'tea.' "So, about the situation in Elysia..."
The situation in Elysia was this: very, very important.
Elysia had been an Ybreteh planet from the time the Jews first left the earth in a great wave through Kippler's, escaping persecution and riding the tide of their own cultural revival on the wings of highly advanced spacecraft that no one could figure out how they'd made. (Israel, of course, demanded that all their young people commit their minds to genius, so it shouldn't have been so surprising.) By the time other major countries and cultures escaped to the stars, the Ybreteh were well-entrenched as leading planetary experts. It was with a bit of justified patronizing that the seven worlds joined the Human Alliance Council when that estimable body was formed.
From then on, things went well. Elysium glass, pilots, spacecraft parts, maps, and charts were always in high demand. Navigators especially relied upon their perfect knowledge of where every celestial body was located in relation to every other celestial body, necessary information if one didn't want to die or end up somewhere far-flung from the desired destination. Elysia charged a pretty penny; the Alliance paid it.
Separately, another cultural group was emerging onto the scene, that of the spacers. These lived out their entire lives on space stations or spaceships. They considered themselves separate from the "planetarians." They lived by another rule, another code, though that wasn't to say they didn't fight more among themselves than they did with the Alliance. The Talons and the Medes, two mining groups out at the gas giant Talon-Mede, were particularly notorious for their ethnic wars. While problematic, the gas giant was not in Ybreteh space, so naturally, nobody saw the latest situation developing until it had already reached the breaking point.
Elysia was complaining that the Council was not sufficiently deterring Talon pirates from destroying and scavenging Elysium spacecraft. Other worlds were being affected, but they were not Ybreteh. They did not consider themselves set apart from the Alliance, treaty-partners with rather than members of. They were not threatening the Alliance to secede if nothing was done to stop rising piracy and death counts.
And the Alliance was failing miserably at doing anything about it.
Will grimaced. "Please tell me they've called in a better negotiator."
Clark shook his head sadly, folded his newspaper, and set it aside. "I fear the worst. Elysia may indeed secede and we will be without the tools we need for the habitat."
Will lunged over the table and clapped a hand over Clark's mouth. "You of all people ought to know what we can and cannot say."
Clark covered Will's fine-boned hand with his large one and pulled it away. "Desist. Your skin tastes of breakfast burrito. Now, as I was saying, our primary building materials can be found on Elysia and nowhere else."
"You don't know that," his friend denied. "The design plans aren't complete, and the project isn't even off the ground."
Clark scowled. "The design is complete."
"Scheffer wants the new kids to take a look at it. He told you that, same as me."
But Clark didn't want to hear it. He stood and nodded his goodbye. "I best attend to the lab."
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