April had a lot of issues to settle with Heather and Jeff. She told Gunny she wanted her privacy this morning for breakfast. He just lifted an eyebrow and didn’t object. He probably thought it was some sort of lovers spat or something, she thought in a foul mood.
Not least of what she wanted to hash out was that Heather had accepted her real estate customers suggestion and declared herself sovereign when the administrator of Armstrong had pursued them to their new homes and tried to arrest them. It had been a brilliant expedient to confer authority on her to act for them quickly. However April was still disapproving that she’d not dissolved the arrangement after fighting their rover force and saving her refugees. In fact she had instead accepted the fealty of the remainder of the Armstrong people when she returned. That wasn’t sitting well with April.
She after all was owed a lot in Heather’s development for her support and transportation services. April had not known she’d be owning a lot in a kingdom. One likely to be disputed.
That bothered her enough, but the cherry on top was that Heather named her and Jeff as peers. She was getting a lot of involvement she hadn’t asked for, but on top of all of it she certainly hadn’t asked to be Dame Lewis!
They were already at a table as she expected. Jeff barely started because he was busy waving his hands and talking to Heather. Heather further ahead because she was methodically eating while she listened. April got a tray, heavy on calories and protein both as she was gene modified and need the extra fuel.
“How long are you here?” April asked right away.
“Maybe three days,” Heather allowed. “When are you coming to visit?” she countered.
“When you have a shower,” April answered without hesitation.
Jeff thought that far funnier than she intended. He launched into a description of the horrors of moon dust that did absolutely nothing to change her mind about the shower.
“Look, you don’t need an entire sanitary plumbing system,” April insisted. “How about just a shower stall standing on a base tank. The mechanism vacuum distills whatever is in the base to an overhead insulated tank. Total capacity say thirty or forty liters. It heats it on a timer when you expect to use it. The base tank has a one liter trap for the solids that get distilled out of the waste water. You remove that and dump it outside every few days. The only loss is what gets carried out on your skin and the humidity lost getting in and out.”
“Thirty liters isn’t much,” Jeff objected.
“You set the temperature at one level. No mixing. You have a momentary contact switch that gives you a quick blast to get wet. You blast – shampoo your hair – blast again soap up your body. Hit the other switch and it runs steady to rinse off. You have a selector to pick fine mist to make it last or a heavier spray, maybe pulsing,” she speculated. “And it isn’t just for you. It is a product to sell. Broken down to assemble or in a box ready to bolt in.
He liked the manufacturing part of the idea.
“A sealed box,” Heather said dreamily. “That could fit in the back of a Russian rover,”
Jeff just looked at her open mouthed.
“You have that much headroom in a rover?” April asked.
“You can just barely stand straight in the rear. You couldn’t stand it on top of a holding tank,” Jeff allowed. “You’d have to put a thin centrifugal lift pump in the floor drain in one corner,” he said, immediately visualizing it, “the motor spinning it just outside the stall, with a waste tank and then a holding tank vertically beside the stall,” He drew in the air with his hands. He looked at Heather again and realized he’d just admitted it was not only possible but he basically had the whole design in his mind already. He bowed to the inevitable. “I’ll draw it up tomorrow and let the specs to a prototype shop,” he promised before she even asked.
“So I understand your refugees are willing to pay for the stuff they took from Armstrong when they fled,” April reminded them. “Have they ever got back to you and named a price or negotiated at all?”
“No, not only are they not talking, but even though the Lunanet satellites are active again they won’t take calls. They tried to sucker a bunch of people back to Armstrong with promises of new freedoms and openness. When you can’t call in or out you know it’s all a lie. I imagine they just want their critical techs back, because they are asking how to run systems that are going down on them without experienced workers.”
“I heard about the lawsuit some of them filed. I understand their motives,” April agreed, “and most of the accusations seem entirely accurate, but I wish they hadn’t named President Wiggen on that list of defendants. In talking to the woman she is one of the few USNA politicians who doesn’t irrationally hate our guts. I doubt the woman had anything to do, or was even aware of the oppressive atmosphere at Armstrong.”
“I hear what you are saying. Wiggen is one of the few things we have going for us, keeping Home and North America from war again,” Heather agreed. “And yet they have a point. If she didn’t know about it she did have a responsibility to know what her government was doing. If her underlings hid things and kept them from her, well, it is her responsibility to keep that from happening if she is really in charge.”
“You may regret setting such a high standard for yourself,” April pointed out. “As Queen of the Moon you have a lot of head strong smart subjects there already. Are you really going to be able to keep them from slipping something past you ?” This was the first talk they’d had about Heather’s new position.”
“I’m not Queen of the Moon,” Heather assured her. “I am Sovereign of The Center of the Moon, which is a very limited thing, and administrator of the Central Lunar Ranches. I advised them on this very suit, but they did not take all my advice. I will not limit my subjects freedom to file in other jurisdictions, although I agree with you about Wiggen. If you hadn’t been a trip wire on your recent trip down to Earth and precipitated the Patriot Party coup attempt before they were ready, I doubt we’d be worrying about Wiggen. She’d have been dead by now.”
“My advice is to get everything you can from the Earthies while she is in power. We really don’t know what is coming after her. And it wouldn’t surprise me if they try again, so you might not have a couple years. If you can get a write-off of the rovers and stuff they took I’d think about dropping at least some of the terms of the complaint in turn. If you get real freedom for the folks left behind in Armstrong who didn’t escape that’s the biggie isn’t it?” April asked.
“I’d think so. If they all insist on being vindictive it will disappoint me. I’m going to quote you about yielding on some points if they reciprocate. You don’t seem to realize it but they respect you.”
“Do they respect me or Dame Lewis?” April asked darkly.
“Now April, be reasonable,” Heather pleaded.”If something happens to me I want to give both Jeff and you the authority to have a say in what happens to Central. If it were a corporate structure I’d have named you to the board as officers. If it were a legal partnership I’d have named you as junior partners. It’s a sovereignty so you are named as peers, as are my first subjects and heads of household Dakota and Bob. Do you suddenly have some irrational hatred of monarchies? I seem to remember you heartily recommending involving the King of Tonga to me as a partner in this adventure. Did he mistreated you when you lifted through Tonga that you changed your mind?”
“It’s just a general feeling I’ve picked up from history lessons and things people say that monarchies are outdated and, you know, despotic. Jokes about ‘Off with their head’ and such. I feel uncomfortable being identified with one,” she admitted.
“If you see me being despotic I’m sure you won’t be shy to tell me,” Heather noted. “In fact if you just see me being stupid I’d really appreciate your saying so.”
“So, we don’t have to wear funny clothes or do any rituals in your kingdom?” April asked.
“Absolutely not. It’s a responsibility not a privilege. In fact nobody is obligated to address people by their titles. If somebody addresses you as Dame Lewis it will be because they respect you and want to,” Heather said.
“Or because they want to be sarcastic, and know they can get my goat that way,” April predicted uneasily.
“In which case it is political expression I dare not stifle,” Heather asserted.
“Great,” April agreed, grinding her teeth. “How benevolent of you.”
“I think April is right about one thing though,” Jeff spoke back up. “It’s to the good for now President Wiggen stays in power, and whatever small influence we have on Earth we should hope she remains and do anything we can to encourage that. We have no agents in place, so we are sort of at the mercy of people like those two lieutenants you had rescued, whose agenda just happens to agree with ours. And that’s kind of scary.”