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Chapter 73 - The Administrator[]

Tharkad System
Lyran Commonwealth

Twenty Minutes later...

Sharon and Roderick watched as the officials mingled, and finally, the Paladin arrowed past the minority leader from the Estates General, and walked up to them.

"Where is the Archon?"

"Oh, she's not here yet?" Sharon countered, refilling her coffee from a service on the table beside her.



"Affairs of state?" the Commanding General suggested.

"Sounds about right." Sharon said, "Trillian's not really much of a party girl."

"Neither are you." Roderick said.

"Yeah but, she said I have to be here." Sharon contributed, then looked the Republic official in the eye, "She will arrive. Exactly at the time she arrives, Paladin-mister-ambassador, and not a moment before or after. Ambassadors wait on the convenience of heads of state, not the other way around."

"Rude, Sharon." Roderick said, an admonishment that underscored her unspoken point.

"Admiral, I think we got off on the wrong foot." the Republic envoy said, "Paladin Lester Howell, Special Envoy from the Republic of the Sphere." he said, extending a hand.

Sharon looked at the hand, and sipped her coffee. "Sharon Ngo, Duchess of Kowloon." she said. "Your accent-New Earth, right?" she did not extend her hand.

"Yes...Admiral Ngo, right?"

"My current job, yeah. You might have noticed my ride on your way in. It's hard to miss." she took another sip, and kept her eyes on his.

"We have warships in the Republic." he said.

"Yeah but, mine is new." she said, "Funniest thing about you guys going armadillo for fifteen years, we discovered a sudden drop in industrial accidents and mysterious malfunctions, also less industrial sabotage, and somehow, without having to route our budgets through your Comstar, a hell of a lot more money to do infrastructure repair and industrial development." she swirled her cup, "Imagine that."

"Your...successes are well documented."

"That's nice. They're not my successes. Roderick did a hell of a good job cleaning out the dead-wood in LCAF's ranks and he designed the series of offensives we used to remove the threat of the Jade Falcons..permanently. All I did, was organize the supply line."

He flinched and blinked first. For just a moment, Sharon could feel the violent intent in the man's posture. The momentary steeling up before lashing out, the desperate exertion of willpower that kept him from doing so.

"When will the Archon be available?" He asked Roderick.

"When she is available." Roderick said, "You do know Trillian is an admirer of the Republic, unlike Admiral Ngo, here."

"I'm one of those awful, terrible, un-progressive, nationalists." Sharon said. "Our domestic economy is stronger than it was before the blackout. Our armed services are no longer riddled with infiltrators or corruption. I don't see any reason to change things from how they presently are, as opposed to the state of decay we were in fifteen years ago."

"I hear an accusation in your tone, Admiral." Howell said. she could almost sense the violence he was restraining.

"Three hundred, thirty two trillion Kroner." Sharon said. "Forensic book-keeping is not a lost technique. I did as much time in Judge Advocate work in the Coast Guard, as I spent in the black-sometimes at the same time. The 'beneficial trade' with your Republic was costing that every year in deficits for the Lyran Commonwealth. Notably, that trade deficit was electronic numbers. The real-Kroner losses were higher...and terminated rather mysteriously when your nation went Armadillo and someone actually started having to do real-world accounting...and demanding real-world results."

"Sharon, is this necessary?" Roderick asked. "He is our nation's guest."

"Of course." Sharon muttered, "Apologies."

Howell looked at Roderick, and then at Sharon. "She's not coming tonight, is she?" he asked.

"Can't say." Sharon said. "The Archon of the Lyran Commonwealth is a busy woman. She has a nation to run, including reconstruction of nearly a third of our territory. A third recovered from genocidal psychopaths while your leader was sleeping it off. A recovery I'm not sure we could've done if you hadn't cut off the communications and tried to Scorpion us."

"HOW DARE YOU!!!" Howell couldn't take it anymore.

"I dare, because it's truth." Sharon snapped right back. "Every HPG, Mister Paladin. Every long range communication array, every financial market, every communication, has been knocked out for almost TWENTY YEARS. When you came out of your precious fortress, you expected everyone to be in chaos and desperate for the healing hands of the Republic to wipe their asses and we don't need you."

Howell's fist was a blur, and stars exploded in Sharon's vision even as she rolled with the punch, landing against the tea-service.

The room was still and silent, shocked expressions all around. She pushed up to her feet. "That's one." she said, "We don't need you and we never did. You need us!" She spat to the side, as the red blood hit the tiles. "Not a very convincing argument." she added, "Unaugmented is fine, by the way. I accept your challenge. Go grab a buddy so it's fair. We'll give everyone a show for the scandal vids."

"Sharon, don't-"

"It's fine, Rod." she said, "Think. Howell. I'm thinking Trueborn, cannister kid, 'best of the best get to be paladins' Jaguar, New Earth accent fits with LIC's info." She reached up and wiped blood from her lip, "Temper fits too. I'll be fine. He violated Guestrite."

"What?" Even Howell was confused.

"You extended violence in the home of your host. Not debate, violence." Sharon stated, "You've just lost moral high ground, moron. Demonstrated you expect to be treated as more important than you are...and you challenged someone who rides in a battleship to a duel. If we do it augmented you've got your tripod thing and I have enough firepower to level continents. We do it unarmed and maybe we both get to live. So I accept-unarmed combat, out in the garden. You have insulted your hostess with your lack of self-control."

"Sharon, he can take you apart." Roderick said.

"Yeah but, it won't win the debate." she said, "What it will do is make my point clear."

"You are wearing armor." Howell said.

"Right, I can fight naked." she said, "Let's take this outside...unless you want to extend a formal apology and offer repentance to the Archon for your undisciplined behavior and lack of public, right now, on behalf of your government."

"Not you?"

She gestured, "NOT MY HOME." she said. "When Trillian Steiner says 'frog' I jump, that doesn't mean I'm not allowed to have my own opinions. You threw a punch at someone in HER house, not mine. Therefore, the insult is to her, as she's not here, I'm best equipped to make it up if you want to get physical. Otherwise, if you want forgiveness for this breach of etiquette? that's hers to give, not mine. If you want it personal, we'll take it out the door, out from under the roof and out of the hospitality zone but, you're still going to apologize because you just ****** up."

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