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The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye (Cover Art)

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Chapter 66 - The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye[]

The primary duty of the exchequer's office..." to organize and raise revenue to run the realm. What happens to that revenue after we've raised it is not part of those duties, Miss Ngo." Max Schrampf was a senior civil servant, he'd entered service in the 3020s, and he was someone nobody does profiles on.

Unlike his rather famous intern. His instructions had been to 'Keep her from hurting herself and make sure she causes no trouble'.

"but Sir! This is serious!" Elizabeth Ngo scowled up at the older man. "The books don't balance!!"

In 3023, when Max entered the civil service, he had been an idealist, drawn to serve the realm by the inspiration of Katrina's reforms. Decades in the tax office had, he thought, beaten it out of him.

She was supposed to get the tea, and carry papers between offices, and run errands, to be a gofer. The girl's idea of what an Intern is, was clearly not the same as it ought to be, and Max wondered if she treated her own interns as Baroness like work-mules, or if the girl was so hands-on as to be the sort of micromanager that haunts every office-worker's nightmares.

"Elizabeth..." he began, "We know." the truth felt strange in his mouth, like a flavor he'd missed for a long time.

"Shouldn't we do something about it?" she looked horrified.

"Let me tell you about a fellow I knew at the start of my career, his name was...we'll call him Heinrich. Heinrich was a gifted accountant, and he was an idealist." Max began, "Sit-?" he gestured firmly at the second chair in his cubicle. "alright, now Heinrich found an anomaly, like you have, only it was his job to find it, while you're an intern and it is not your job...but that's beside the point. Our supervisor saw the anomaly, and told him to rationalize it-to make it look normal." The bitter memory surfaced unbidden, standing there trying to get someone-anyone to listen and do the responsible thing...

"What happened?"

"Heinrich didn't-at first-do what he was told." Max explained. "It ruined his career and someone else made the anomaly 'go away'."

"That was you, wasn't it?" Elizabeth asked.

Max froze, "What makes you say that?"

"What you left out. if you were telling a bullshit story, you'd have more extra details to spice it up, and you wouldn't...look like that, that anger, there, in your eyes." she said quietly. "You're not a noble."


"Well...I am." she said, "Someone is stealing from the realm. We are going to find them, and I will make them pay, pay for what they have stolen, and pay for what they took from you and men like you. and do you know why?"

"Why would you take this risk?" he asked.

"Because I'm a damned noble and it's more than being nice and wearing pretty dresses and uniforms!!" she scowled, "Look, Max...I know how long I have to live, how can I say I've used my time well, if I let this go on? What would god say? Help me gather the evidence, lead me in this, and I will keep the bastards off your back, because I can take the heat, it can't be worse than what I already have to look forward to. They won't let me be an explorer or a starship captain, but damn it, my time is limited and I can make a damned difference!"

He wanted to believe...and that made it easier to overcome the instincts telling him to run away. "Okay. Let's do this."

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