“Hello. Today I’m Professor Morgana Lafayette,” she announced. “The Speaker asked me to drop by to talk. He didn’t say it had to be today, but the hint was clear. Is he free? Is there a best time?”
“Yes, ma’am. Just a moment.” He pressed a button. He was replaced by a beautiful picture of the Grand Canyon and sweet music. In a few moments, his image returned in a split screen, the other half being the Speaker’s lead secretary, Ophelia Parrotwood.
“Morgana,” Ophelia gushed, “what a delight that you got back to us so quickly. The Speaker is in the process of escorting someone out of the office. If you can get here quickly, no, wait, the Capital teleport screen is up, so…’
“That’s a non-issue,” Morgana answered. “I seem to recall your office has a west floor to ceiling window with nothing in front of it.”
“I’ll be there in a few moments,” she announced.
The occupants of Ophelia Parrotwood’s office affected not to be surprised when a woman stepped out of thin air in front of them. Teleportation, after all, was a commonplace. The more astute observers realized that they were inside the Federal District teleportation screens, so the appearance should have been impossible.
Ophelia’s enthusiastic greeting made clear the young lady was an invited guest. “Morgana, it’s always such a delight to see you. I hope you’re well?”
“I am indeed. And you?” Morgana asked.
“Also well, though not as young as I used to be,” Ophelia answered. “As a girl, I would dance all night. Now I prefer to sit for conversation as midnight strikes.”
“That’s practical experience, not age,” Morgana answered. “But, hark, the Speaker approaches.”
No sooner had she made those remarks than Speaker Ming, in his informal robes of state, entered the room. “Ah,” he said. “Morgana! So good you could be here. Let’s step into my inner office.”
Morgana found herself squired into an overpadded armchair, its complicated print being chrysanthemums in full bloom. Her blooms were gold and yellow. His were pale pinks that accented his scarlet robes. After offering a few pleasantries, the Speaker got to the point.
“I have a legal issue, but do not know what to do about it,” he announced. “It relates to Eclipse, may she rest in peace. I gather that she grew up with her mother, and, one fine day when she was probably eleven years old, she was thrown out of the house. I can’t propose endangerment, somewhat the reverse, but abandonment is illegal. Is there a way to find and arrest her mother? Do I actually have evidence for charges? Eclipse was apparently entirely closemouthed about her parents’ names. What should I do here?”
“Yes,” Morgana said, “I have the answer to this riddle. I know it, but only because the Wizard of Mars invited me for tea. You need to know it, to quiet your worries, though it is a terrible tale. The actual answer is that the Wizard of Mars is an extremely cruel man. Alternatively, he is bound by rules beyond our comprehension, rules that demand that for every answer there must be a proportionate price. For every good he does, an evil must match. For his answer to ‘How may I avert this doom, so far away yet so swift approaching?’, that doom being the Sword People and then the Invincible Star Demons, the price was indeed high. I didn’t ask this question. The Silver General did.”
“Are we to be like the High Technarchs,” Ming wondered, “crushed like grains of wheat between two millstones, when Solara and the Silver General clash? That seems to be what happens whenever the Silver General manifests herself.”
“For better or worse, no,” Morgana answered. “The final Doom was Invincible Star Demons, actually the last three of them. Except that this Doom has been averted, Eclipse sacrificing her life to do so, they would be here, sometime this year, and the world of the League of Nations would be one with Gaia Atlanticea.”
“Oh, dear.” Speaker Ming had turned pale.
“For Astrid, the Silver General, the answer to that question, and the price for the answer, were the same.”