I’m counting noses in my head,” Elektra said. “As you all are, I hope. National Renaissance has nothing like a majority. They could reach across us to the Popular Democrats, but the PD agreed to that twenty years ago and never recovered. That leaves them votes short. The shortness is, however, less than the number of powder-puff cabinet seats, so they might be able to buy a majority. They could reach right to the National Front or the Union Democrats, and then support the school reform that they promised last time, to get the Left to abstain, but that would cost them a considerable number of votes, people who won’t touch National Front. The Left might demand the Education cabinet seat, with budget, which Drummond-McLaren might be willing to give them.”
Shadow Education Minister Michael O’Raffertaigh stood to make his point. “There is a scandal in Education,” O’Raffertaigh said. The burnished gold of his pocket-watch chain stood out brilliantly against the rich brown of his three-piece suit. “more I cannot properly say, but I was asked privately if I would consider rising into the seat.”
“There is also the Trade issue,” shadow Economics Minister Phineas Lumley answered, “and I should thank Elektra for calling my attention to these interesting laws, last night, so that I would have time to read them carefully. Yes, I stayed up all night. Violators of the Industrial Non-Intercourse Act are about to get caught. Clearly, we need our own starships. Undoubtedly every Tom, Jack, and Harry is about to launch a company to build them. How they propose to get around Republic IP Treaties is beyond me. Indeed, while you were walking over here, I had an inquiry from Nakajima shipbuilding – they build ocean freighters, mostly sail-assisted – about Union Federal subsidies for them to open a starship construction branch, a topic about which they know nothing. “
“And Trilateral?” June Fanshaw asked, her Strine accent making a sharp contrast to Lumley’s midwestern speech.
“I gather,” Lumley answered, “that Trilateral – now the Trade Cartel of the other three Space Freighter lines, Bulger having been dropped out by the debtors in possession – is preparing a request for a massive subsidy, to tide them over from their forthcoming loss of spaceship repair facilities. That’s entirely separate, legally, from these new Republic Laws.”
“Coordinated,” Fanshaw answered. “Note also the loss of our Space Guard’s graving dock.” Elektra considered the exchange. June was fond of seeing evidence of conspiracies, whether they were there or not, but she had a remarkable gift for identifying the ones that actually existed.