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Chapter 59 - Important People[]

1432 Archon Boulevard
Tharkad City
Lyran Commonwealth
Early 3098

Duchess Elizabeth Ngo, like every Planetary Noble of her rank, was legally required to maintain a residence on Tharkad.  The condo wasn't really expensive: she sold the Schloss in the mountains and used about a tenth the price to buy up a housing complex with one of the units reserved for her use back in '55.  Like the Marjorie Hills residence, this was in a working-middle-class suburb, not in the core of the city itself.

She paid a local caretaker to maintain the actual 'residence', and part of that payment was the unit next door.

Tonight, she was sitting at a kitchen table, across from the most important man in the Commonwealth.

"It's... quaint, Liz," Andrew Steiner said uncomfortably.

"I like to think it's utilitarian," Elizabeth answered.  On the table, she had a portable computer and a stack of data-discs. "Low key.  I hardly used this place the last time Peter had me running the department of the Navy, and haven't used it since.  We need to discuss some things that were classified."

"Such as?" asked Andrew

"Such as what leverage we had on Devlin Stone, and how we've lost that leverage," she said quietly.  "Because this move? Says we've lost our leverage."

"What was this leverage??" he questioned her

"Remember when I went on trial for war crimes?  You were old enough. You'd remember, trust me," she said casually.

"Yeah.  I remember that... vaguely."

"Well, Andrew, your Highness... part of why they played nice afterward, was that leverage."  she said firmly.  "I threatened him, their big savior, their Exarch, and I threatened his handlers... so either his handlers have slipped the leash, or he has."

"What did you blackmail them with?" he asked

"The truth," she said.  "I gave Devlin the option of learning the truth or backing off.  The truth about his background, his history, and who he works for... apparently, that threat's no longer viable."

"Could it be that bad?" He asked.

Elizabeth stood, went to a cupboard, and brought out an expensive bottle of scotch and two glasses.  She poured one for the Archon, and one for herself before answering.

"Yes," she said.  "I guess it can be.  I'm not sure how, but it was bad enough that he backed off initially on some of the provisions of the Republic Treaty back in the eighties, I only had to threaten to show him some information.  Either Lear's not holding his leash anymore, or the information doesn't matter anymore."

"What was it?"

Elizabeth sighed and sipped her scotch.  "His shutdown code." she said.  "The code that would shut down his programming and unlock all the memories he's been conditioned to repress.  When I told him I had it, it scared the living shit out of him, and more importantly, it scared Lear."

"Do you actually have it?" Andrew probed

She sighed.  "No... but they thought I had it, which confirms it exists.  So... either they KNOW we don't have it, or it no longer matters."

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