“Victor, entitled is correct, but you may ruffle some feathers,” Tara observed.
“Tara, dear,” Victor said, turning to look out his windows at the waves of the Pacific, “a polite committee would have done what you wanted, and had you to speak with staff a day ahead of time so that both sides knew what was going on. No, they want a show, so it is my duty to give them one. I will need the mandated bannerman and the half-dozen escorts in dress uniforms. Oh, and the flautist.”
“As you command, so it shall be done,” Tara said. “Be a shame if anyone on the committee is a pathological hoplophobe.”
“Check,” Victor said. “The objective is to steal the press’s attention, not to scare any of them to death.”
Senator Woodrow Wilson Whitecloth glared across his committee’s elevated dias at Tara Broadhurst. His ruddy face went poorly with lime-green three-piece suit, forest-green shirt, and very broad deep violet neck tie wrapped in an ornate Eldredge knot. “We appear,” he grumbled, “to have only three minutes before this hearing begins. Pray tell, counsellor, where are your principals?”
“They are in the building,” Tara answered blandly. “I expect will be here before the session begins. Our Works Manager should be here momentarily, and our Director of Operations should be just behind her.”
“They didn’t consider appearing yesterday to chat up the staff?” Whitecloth asked.
“There must have been poor communications,” Tara said. “Your staff somehow left me with the impression that we were not wanted to appear earlier. Sad, but now water under the bridge.”
Whitecloth looked up at the rear door and managed to fake a smile. “Ah,” he said, “Senior Master Chief of the Fleet Bell.”
“Now retired, Senator,” Bell responded. “But always good to see you again. You look well.”
“You are always so kind. You also look well,” Whitecloth answered. “Some of us were sorry you retired and gave up on constructing starships inside the Anglic Union.”
“I retired,” Bell answered, a smile appearing on her lips. “But sometimes there is more than one way to skin a cat.” She tilted back her head. “But I hear my boss coming, so you should ask him.” Indeed, from the corridor could be heard the trilling of a single flute. Whitecloth, puzzled, looked up at the doorway.
Through the door came a young man in brilliant scarlet uniform holding high a golden orange banner inscribed in royal blue with two letters: “VC”. His bootsteps rang out against the chamber’s concrete floor. A half-dozen tall young people, similarly dressed but carrying battle rifles, followed. Victor Chelan, wearing a pale gray three-piece suit with scarlet necktie, was sandwiched in their middle. His bodyguards split left and right, to line the room’s rear wall. The flautist remained in the corridor. Chelan marched toward the front of the room. The bodyguards did an about face and withdrew from the hall.