Read me the story:
The look Jarvin gave her as she entered the Meeting Room would have peeled duracoat from titanium-alloy, and the impatient, skeptical looks on the faces of some of the other sixteen Seated Members promised signal vengeance for this disturbance visited upon them by (presumably) a female whim. She’d said very little in the three regular sessions they’d held so far, so it was hardly surprising they believed in her reputation as the eccentric, erratic, Kerant family ne’er-do-well. Only Undas Matlor, the cynical Member for Transport and a survivor of the old CivAdmin, knew her at all.
“Honorable Speaker, Esteemed Members,” she began, conventionally enough, but then dispensed with protocols that had evolved in a more leisured and less perilous era—all of twenty days ago. “The matter at hand is a notice from Ermetyne Finance Conglom that they have petitioned Galactibank Central for precautionary liens on our colony’s protectorates of Nerith Zeta, S’dernat, Lojau Hen, Surimaka Delta, and Aijala w’Oth. They have also placed the payment schedules of our primary and secondary notes under pending review.” She paused a beat.
“It is highly unlikely that the petition will be denied.”
She waited a moment for this to sink in, and sure enough, only half-a-dozen or so seemed to grasp the situation. One, for a wonder, was Jarvin, whose petulant expression had vanished into a half-frown. Another was Undas Matlor, who leaned back in his chair with a blank expression she knew meant he was connecting the dots… he’d be ahead of her in a minute or two, the old fox.
“I’ve routed to your screens,” she clicked the ‘send’ button, “a breakdown of those notes, the refinanced payment schedule that was contracted seventeen years ago, and a summary of the last semi-annual balance sheet. Please review.”
Frowning, the Seated Members turned attention to their screens. One by one, their looks of irritation, puzzlement, or indifference changed. Mostly to shock, but in some cases to wary confusion.
“Blessed Warrior…” muttered the Member for External Commerce, the other survivor (besides Jarvin and Matlor) of the old CivAdmin.
“But… I don’t understand! These figures… on the remaining notes outstanding… can’t be right! Certainly, we contracted additional obligations in the wake of the Mutiny, but those were a separate transaction. And short-term. Weren’t they?” Pentik Mabry was the newly-Seated Member for Planning Coordination. “And these figures are, uh, arranged differently than when they were presented at the last semi-annual review. Aren’t they?”
Zarel spared him an approving nod. Mabry might be young, but his family had been grooming him for a CivAdmin seat. He’d been following the issues of importance to his Seat, and since his hasty appointment, he’d been working hard to grasp the essentials of his division’s responsibilities. “Quite so, Member Mabry. A well-chosen word, ‘arranged.’ Without going into the sins of our predecessors,” she carefully avoided glancing at her brother, “past Finance reports seem to have aimed more at avoiding awkward questions than providing a clear financial picture.”
“The initial notes taken out from Rezprom Interhub after the Mutiny were secured separately with a revenue interest in the Lojau Hen protectorate. Once it became clear that the net revenues from Lojau Hen would remain, ah, inadequate, for an indefinite period, we offered to refinance. Rezprom refused. They sold the note to Ermetyne Finance Conglom, who offered us what seemed—then—favorable terms on a consolidation and refinance, to be secured by capital shares in the protectorates aforementioned.”
“I had no idea that the capital debt was still so large… Wasn’t the whole point of having protectorates to develop revenue sources to speed the payoff rate on our capital debts?” The Member for Air frowned.
Undas Matlor chuckled mirthlessly. “Theoretically. Unfortunately, the costs of the military operations required to take and hold the protectorates invariably exceeded—by a large measure—the expense estimates. And we’ve never been as successful as we’d like to think we are at generating revenue from protectorates.” He glanced sardonically at the Speaker.
Jarvin, to his credit, didn’t rise to the bait. Of course, he’d been Seated only three years ago, so it was still possible for him to blame any sins of his division on his predecessors.
The Member for Military Liaison, however, seemed to take a personal affront. “Perhaps if certain Democratic Companies in the military supply sector worried less about inflating profit margins, and more about meeting timelines and staying within budgets, there would be less discongruity between estimates and reality,” he sneered, glancing pointedly at the Member for External Commerce and at Zarel herself.
She snorted. “Member Nexep, having requested this Emergency Meeting to acquaint the CivAdmin with a very real and very immediate threat, I’ve done my job. If we don’t want to discuss this information further in any substantive way, I’m happy to adjourn the meeting, and you can convene a meeting to discuss the sins of our dead rivals at your leisure.”
She was older than anyone at the table except Matlor, and most of them were young enough to be her children. The tone of voice she used was one that had always been particularly effective with her own tiresome offspring during their pre-adolescent adjustment adventures. There was a momentary, rather shocked, silence.
Jarvin stared at her, eyes narrowed. All of Harlis’ warnings about their sister’s intractability, unfeminine willfulness, and filial disrespect came back to him in a rush, and it took a severe struggle of will to set aside the impulse to deal with a wayward sister, and address the crisis at hand. A crisis she’d brought to their attention, of course. He found himself on the verge of grinding his teeth, and pursed his lips, instead. She hadn’t actually created the crisis, after all.
“Order, please, Members. As Member Kerant has reminded us, this is her Emergency Meeting until she chooses to adjourn or until a majority votes for adjournment. Do I hear a motion for adjournment?”
He let the silence stretch a good fifteen seconds before he nodded at his sister. “Member Kerant.”
She nodded back. “Honored Speaker.” Then she looked around the big table. “Members, the facts are at hand. The liens will be granted, I can assure you. Nothing in Galactibank Central’s historical pattern gives us any hope otherwise. You have all seen our current balance sheet, and our current revenues and immediate projections. Even with full control of the protectorate revenues, we would soon have fallen behind on capital debt payments. I’d hoped we could squeeze five years out, to give ourselves time for contingency planning.”
She shook her head. “We would have faced the decision soon enough, in any case. But the Three must now chart our course of action in the light of this new information. It will be incumbent on us to ensure that our Speaker,” she nodded in Jarvin’s direction again, “has the information and support needed for these deliberations. Honored Speaker,” she addressed Jarvin directly, “What do you wish from our divisions, and from this body?”
He blinked a moment, then picked up his cue. He looked down at the figures on the screen, then back up at the others. All eyes were on him. He blinked again, and drew a deep breath. “Right now, we need to be sure we understand all the implications of this information, and develop some preliminary recommendations for action. I will have to present this information to the Supreme Commander and the Cardinal Prelate, and it might be useful to have some options to consider.”
“In addition, I would ask each of you to accelerate the timing on the resource inventories your divisions have been conducting. If the Member for CivAdmin Operations would be so kind, could you coordinate the receipt and summarizing of the inventories, Felep?”
Felep Kostak’s mouth dropped open, but he nodded. “Yes, Honored Speaker, certainly.”
“Very well. Member Kerant, if you accede, may we adjourn this Emergency Meeting, and I will convene a regular session in one hour from now?”
“The meeting is adjourned, Honorable Speaker,” Zarel bowed respectfully. Slowly, the eighteen civil leaders of Klaros dispersed.