As requested another April 11 snippet. The book is past 66k words.
Heather didn’t get many requests for a private audience from her landholders. They could speak to her after she held her weekly court, but most were too busy to want to sit through the judicial matters to speak to her. The doors were locked after she started hearing cases and there was no telling how long they would take. All of that was by design to save her precious time. Most of them communicated with her by text instead of demanding a face to face, which was just fine with Heather.
Several described discussing issues among themselves before having one of their number approach her. She wasn’t offended or suspicious of that. A less confident ruler might have worried about the potential for conspiracy. It just made good sense to her. It probably saved a lot of her time that would be wasted rehashing everything with them one by one. The number of people who were always finding something to propose could be counted on the fingers of one hand anyhow. Frymeta Obarzanek was not one of them and had not in her memory ever been the spoks to present a group proposal.
The whole Obarzanek clan kept to themselves to the point of being reclusive. Heather hadn’t seen Frymeta for some time and she obviously had gotten Life Extension Treatments. When she first walked in, Heather had a momentary disconnect, thinking she’d sent her daughter instead, because the woman now looked so much like her older daughter Yetta. It didn’t help that she had her younger daughter Laja with her. Heather was used to seeing the pair of sisters together. They did much of the clan’s business dealing with the public. It helped Heather clue up on who she was, and not say something stupid, that the woman looked younger now but still wore the same dark clothing as before. An American would have immediately labeled it as ‘old country’. The daughters were both thoroughly modern in dress wearing bright colors of a stylish cut.
The clan was one of the bright spots in her domain as far as business activity. They were the first of the landholders to start sinking an elevator big enough to handle freight and they took it all the way up to the surface too. Others owners started smaller and lower, avoiding surface exposure for safety. Central had been bombed once and might be again.
“I’m going to have coffee,” Heather informed them. “Would you care for something?”
“That would be fine,” Frymeta said. Her daughter waited on the mother’s response before adding her own, “Please.”
Heather looked over her shoulder getting a nod from her housekeeper that she was on it. Heather didn’t waste time on ritual chit-chat by asking after their family. For one thing, they had imported so many relatives she’d lost track of their names and relationships. They’d also put a sizable deposit on another lot as far away across Central as possible from their first holding. They had a twenty-year option on that property to redeem it or lose the deposit. Heather didn’t expect them to lose the deposit.
“What can I do for you?” Heather asked and sat back relaxed. She’d learned to do that to signal to people she intended to hear them out and they needn’t rush to get their say in.
“Have you observed we have accumulated a mound of broken rock in the middle of our property?” the Matriarch inquired.
“My engineer, Mo Pennington, mentioned it some time ago,” Heather remembered. “He remarked on it because other landholders are also bringing up material from tunnel boring, but most of them inquired where they could dispose of it. We obtained permission from Robert Lewis to dump them on the south slope of his mountain.”
Frymeta nodded. “That side already has a gentler gradient. I expect in a few years he’ll be able to plow a series of switchbacks up the contributed material and have a road to the top of his holding. I’d charge him if he wanted our fill, but that’s other’s concern if they want to donate it. Once they abandon it there as waste I don’t think anyone would argue they can claw it back should they find it has value or they find a personal use for it after all.”
“I’m sure you are aware that is a source of litigation among the Earthies right now,” Heather said. “Landfills and waste storage are suddenly resources and claimants are trying to regain rights to what they paid to throw away. It’s a mess with much of the trash having been hauled across county or state lines. There is even an international case where New Jersey wishes to mine the ocean floor beyond the national limit where they dumped millions of tons of garbage for decades.”
“I don’t expect any better of the Earthies,” Frymeta said. “We fled North America before we too were reduced to being rag-pickers. Australia is better off, but some of our cousins and Grandfather Blas have joined us from Australia, unsure of their long range future.”
Heather felt the same but just nodded and stayed silent. As Sovereign, she realized everything she said had an official component to it. She didn’t have the luxury of a completely private opinion except speaking with her partners April and Jeff. Australia was, if not an ally, a trading partner who treated them better than most Earth nations. It would be better if she could not be quoted as viewing them negatively.
“I try to have as light a hand in governance as possible,” Heather claimed. “It’s no concern of mine if you want to build your own mountain. If it gets high enough I assume you will put a radar reflector and a warning light on it. Mr. Lewis did that with his mountain even though it is a natural formation and nobody asked him to do so.”
“So shall we,” Frymeta promised, “and we will stay back from our property line a good margin, so whatever the natural angle of repose turns out to be with our waste it won’t intrude on our neighbor’s property. Have you wondered why we have all this rock?”
“I try to mind my own business and not speculate,” Heather said. “I’m happy you are tunneling like a bunch of demented groundhogs and I assume you are just going to keep excavating your elevator indefinitely.”
It was Frymeta’s turn to nod noncommittally. “We stopped the surface shaft with a break at ten kilometers actually. We’re going to have parallel shafts running from six kilometers down to wherever it gets too hot or the composition of the rock is unfavorable.
We’ve put measures in place to prevent any blast from the surface damaging the parallel shafts. It’s safe from anything short of a ground penetrating nuclear device, coming straight down the center shaft. We put the elevator at the corner of our property to facilitate selling lift services to our adjoining three neighbors. They are welcome to make connector tunnels to our bottom stop as long as they build in certain safety features. Their tunnels must have jog-backs from blast attenuating dead ends and provisions to collapse large sections on command.”
“That seems like sound practices,” Heather agreed.
“Where most of that pile has come from the last couple of lunars is a new shaft on the opposite corner of our property,” Frymeta said. “We are building an elevator six times the area of the old one to be able to carry the largest anticipated rover or a spaceship.”
Frymeta stopped talking and just looked at Heather as if she expected a reaction.
“Did you think I’d object?” Heather asked, surprised. “Knock yourself out. Just because we own a few ships doesn’t mean we’ll regard you as competition. We’ve never thought of ourselves as primarily freight haulers. I’d be happy if Central were known for ships. It’s too bad we can’t really compete with Home for shipyards because building in zero-g is easier.”
“Who are we?” Laja spoke up for the first time and asked, a little irritated. “I dislike having undefined terms when we are talking business.”
Her mother looked uncomfortable.
“We are Myself, April Lewis, and Jeff Singh,” Heather said. “You can always assume we three support each other without reserve.” Her tone conveyed the Royal self perfectly.
“No, I couldn’t assume that,” Laja said. “I just don’t operate on ‘everybody knows’ but now that you have defined it I accept it.”
“Heather is closer in age to you than me,” Frymeta told her daughter, “but we are both still products of a different culture that was more circumspect in our personal life than in business, where everything must be documented in black and white. You may think that lingering Earth Think but it was the reality in which we were raised.”
“While we are defining things, I think the limits of what is considered Earth Think is expanding, and that trend will probably continue,” Laja said.
“I should have seen that coming. Neither will Earth Think itself stay static, any more than how you regard it. Cultural norms change no matter how authorities try to keep them enforced. Let me explain the background,” Heather told the young woman.
“When we three declared the revolution on Home we did so in secret, fearful to even put a name to our association. To give something a name is to invite discovery. We were already facing the prospect of banishment to Earth. Being named as criminal conspirators would have just added another thing to overcome to ever get back in space. We kept everything secret as a matter of personal safety. We also avoided any public pledges or legal contracts to each other because the majority of those raised on Earth would disapprove. Our own families were a concern that way. April still feels her grandparents are prejudiced and don’t accept Jeff, and Jeff hasn’t had his Earth-side Indian relatives speak to him since the war.”
“What about your family?” Laja asked directly, horrifying her mother.
“My mother is so in your face and unconventional she puts you youngsters to shame,” Heather said. “My brother manages to occasionally shock her.”
“Then I think I’d like to meet them,” Laja said, with obvious sincerity.