Morgana Explains Eclipse to the Speaker
Professor Morgana Lafayette marched briskly down the corridor toward her new laboratories. Her office was down the corridor bend; it could wait.
“Professor Lafayette!” The voice was directly behind her.
“Yes, Penelope?” Morgana answered, turning around as she spoke. Penelope Fairweather was her new senior post-doc, and already doing a fine job.
“Your office! There’s a messenger!” she said. “In uniform.”
“Uniform?” a surprised Morgana asked.
“Service of the Republic. With all the gold braid. He said he’s from Speaker Ming, himself.” Penelope spoke so rapidly she had to stop to breathe.
“I’d better see him first, then,” Morgana said. Now what? she thought. She’d been hoping to get real work done today. Days before teh term started were precious things, easily wasted, falling away forever in a shower of scarlet sparks like rubies from the hand of the Nizam. “He’s at my office door?”
“I will try to be available soon,” Morgana said. “However, the return is my research funding.” Not so long ago, people only thought of her as Morgana Lafayette, brilliant and very junior research scientist. Now, a few people, more than she would have preferred, realized that she was also Morgan Le Fay, the Living Crone, Bringer of the Apocalypse. It was not much of a secret that the Speaker’s personal slush fund gave her very substantial resources. She hoped those were in recognition of her research, not terror of her persona identity. Ming was very happily married to his new, much younger wife; Morgana ignored rumors that she had seduced him. Of course, she considered, most of the people circulating those rumors had no ideas as to her public persona identity. She had planted many paintings that happened to show someone else as the notorious Morgan Le Fay.
She turned the bend in the corridor. Standing in front of her office door , posture a stiff parade rest, was a young man in bright teal uniform.
“Hello?” she said.
He looked to his side, pivoted, and executed a formal boot-slamming salute. Morgana tapped her chest in response.
“I gather there is a message for me,” Morgana said.
“Ma’am! Yes, ma’am!”
“Follow me into my office,” she ordered. Her new office was considerably larger than her cubbyhole at Rogers had been; it was large enough for her entire research group to assemble in one place. He deposited an envelope on her desk. She looked, signed the outer jacket, handed him back a now-open outer envelope, and looked at the inner envelope. “Was a reply expected?” she asked.
“No, Eternal Lady!” The messenger answered.
“In that case, you can be on your way, and I need to see what Speaker Ming has to say for himself.”
“Yes, Eternal Lady!” He exited.
The message was quite short. “Morgana, a technical moral issue has arisen on which I would appreciate your personal guidance. I believe the matter would better be handled if we were in the same room. My schedule today is free, if you ignore the line of Congressional supplicants.”
Different, she thought. She tapped a long number into her old but very secure telephone. In a few moments, one of Ming’s flak catchers appeared on the screen.
“Good aft,…” he swallowed. “Good afternoon, Eternal Lady, ” he stammered. “Speaker Ming’s office.”