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

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Chapter 73 - The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye[]

Elizabeth Ngo shuffled papers as Max sat down across from... of the most important men in the Lyran Commonwealth.

His Grace, Duke of Porrima, Ryan Steiner looked uncomfortable in the plain room, looking first to Max, the Auditor, and then to her. His eyes fixed on Elizabeth, then, "I know you." he said.

"Sir, I assure you, we have never met." Elizabeth stated.

"No...I know of you." he amended, "Elizabeth Ngo, the Baroness Spider Moon, something about a Naval action?"

"That's correct." she allowed.

"You're carrying the briefs for this...civil servant?"

"Five years service to the Realm, sir." She said. "Since I'm still under-age, it's an internship."

"Why?" he asked, curiously.

"because I wasn't supposed to be near the front lines, Sir." She told him. "We're not here about me, Sir."

"Of course... what does the tax officer want from me this time?"

Max cleared his throat, "Elizabeth, would you please-?"

She nodded, and extracted a stack of offprints, she laid them before the Duke of Porrima. "There are some irregularities in your world's tax-and-tithe, sir." she said.

"I was assured we were paying our share-"

"no.." Max spoke up, "...I think you're projecting. Please, Your Grace, read the documents."

"I..." Ryan Steiner studied the documents. "What is this?" he asked.

"Irregularities you should be made aware of." Elizabeth spoke up, "someone is stealing from you, and from the realm-everything based on your own survey data, says your planetary income should be roughly thirty percent higher than it is, your exports alone should be clearing more than thirty percent greater profits...."

she pulled out another sheaf, "...and your contributions to Free Skye don't cover it."

Ryan's belly felt suddenly full of icewater. "What?"

"I said, the funds you have been diverting to fund Free Skye cells in the Isle region don't line up with the missing revenue." the girl said quietly, "in a sense, whoever is stealing from the Realm, is also stealing from you, and from your secessionist friends."

Max cleared his throat, as Ryan goggled, "We're not here to address your political activities, Your Grace. That's a function for Lohengrin. The Exchequer's sole and only concern, is organizing and raising revenue for the Realm, which includes protecting the generators of that revenue-even would-be traitors, from embezzlement and theft in order to insure that the taxes are collected."

"We would prefer your cooperation in this effort." Elizabeth commented idly, "It's for your benefit as well as ours. Someone has been tapping thirty percent of your planetary GDP right off the top, before you even got the figures you used-we would like to stop that, and recover those funds from the perpetrators."

Ryan, however, was stuck on something, "HOW?? how did you know about Free Skye, how did you get these documents??"

"Her Majesty has a very effective internal security, sir." Elizabeth spoke, "I got the documents because I asked her for them. she knows about your political machinations, and she's okay with it for the time being, provided your friends limit their activities to a reasonable level of dissent while still being willing to defend the realm from outside threats....threats, like the Clans."

"You're shaking me down."

"No, sir. we're seriously after whoever been ripping you off, because my theory is that they've been ripping off more than just you...and for longer than just the present time." Max spoke, "We are after criminals who may well be responsible for many of the grievances your friends in Free Skye are all up in arms about. The corruption so far, seems to be extensive, pervasive, and generational-and thanks in part to my Intern's relationships, the Auditor's office finally has the backing to try and take this ring's not a shakedown, you can, perhaps, call it a recruiting drive."

"The best way to destroy sedition, is to address the matter that drives it." Elizabeth commented, "Will you cooperate, Your Grace? If you will not, then My Supervisor here, will have to release this data to Lohengrin, and we may have to address this again, with your successor...soon."

Ryan Steiner visibly swallowed, "I...see...yes, I will cooperate with this..."

"Audit, sir."

"This Audit, naturally, as a patriotic Lyran citizen."

"Excellent." Max said, "Let's get started, shall we?"

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