Four days later, Raymond reappeared at Ariel’s door bearing a small bouquet. Golden sunflowers, with a ruby sunflower in the center, all in a heavy vase.
“Great lunch Friday,” she said, loudly enough that her voice carried. She gestured for him to come in and close the door. Still pointing, she had him put down his vase and sit. A small cubical box on her desk came to life, a half-dozen lights flickering from red to green. “Heavy duty privacy screens,” she announced. “Now the peepy-poachers will think we are about to start making out.” Raymond mock-recoiled. “No! I looked at the files you noted. And summoned the full legislative record on each item. Good God! These are almost militant blockades! We do have a few friends, from statements to the committee. I’ve never heard of Trumpkins, but they hold a big stack of patents.”
“Blockades?” Raymond asked. “My source was right?”
Ariel recounted key points of the legislation, starting with what the Trumpkins had told Chelan. Raymond’s eyes grew wider and wider. She then led him through the text, closing with the important point: The proposals had been attached, as minor enabling legislation, to a segment of the Stellar Republic’s budget, and passed by the Popular House, the Grand Senate, and the Presidential Council, signed by the Stellar Republic’s President and Grand Admiral, and were now being promulgated to the Republic’ s member planets. That process took a few months, the formal legal time being six months, at the end of which the legislation was said to be in effect.
“They got clever,” Ariel said. “That’s actually unusual for them. Usually Trade and Customs Legislation is passed on a Priority or Emergency basis, so it goes into effect more or less immediately. By hiding it this way, mixed in with laws renaming Post Offices and Public Parks,no one is likely to notice it, especially when the laws are described as ‘An Act Protecting the Cultural Status of Underprivileged Neighboring States” and “An Act Restating Safety Standards for Transporting Certain Minor Classes of Rarely-Imported Goods”. Their definition of ‘rarely-imported goods’ is a defined fraction of all foreign trade of the Stellar Republic, all fifty billion star systems, so anything we could export to them is ‘rare’.
“Oh, boy,” Raymond managed. “I’d better tell the Senator. Is lunch tomorrow good?”
“Always,” she answered, “but we absolutely don’t talk about this.”
“Oh, yes, you asked about our embassy on Mogado. I found some files, all the correspondence between our Ambassador and the First Minister. It was strange. All on one day, he dropped into the public file his private messages. All of them. The ones from the Ambassador were easy to find. To find the ones from him, you had to be clever. The Ambassador had very much told the First Minister about the legislation, and the First Minister had approved.”