Excerpt from Work in Progress: The Price of Power

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"Don't sell yourself cheap, Grace," Scimtar said out loud, short-circuiting my attempt to keep the kids out of the conversation.

"Why? My only importance is because I'm married to a Scimtar."

All the older adults reacted in disbelief. Scimtar actually laughed, "Young lady, put your accomplishments in perspective. You've shown yourself to be a formidable foe, and you are married to my grandson. Because of that, our rivals might well think it's worth removing you from the game while you're still young and inexperienced."

Helene continued, "Let's start with saving that primitive planet you were born on from itself. What would have happened to it if you hadn't been there?"

The obvious thing was that the nuclear war between China and Russia would have been much worse. I and the other dog traders had destroyed most of the missiles in flight, and none of the dog traders would have been there without me. And then the fallout would have killed at least twice as many people as it spread, instead of us washing most of it out of the atmosphere. "A lot more people would have died."

Anara snorted. She'd been Earth's first planetary viceroy - and was still in charge of it through her subordinates. "The biggest continent would have become a radioactive waste, and all of the others would have suffered. Nor would the Empire have known to intervene. By the time we stepped in to save them from their ruling classes, another forty years would have passed - four times as long there due to the time differential. Instead of nine fifths, the planet might have been home to one or two fifths - if they were lucky."

Gilras took it up, "Many people would have thought marrying into the Scimtars was achievement enough for a prime or two. Instead, you devoted yourself to running that dog business, not only making it profitable, but saving large numbers of them, while enabling a lot of Imperials to enjoy the benefits." He gestured to where Dancer, a chow I'd given to Etonas, was curled around Scimtar's feet, his new master stroking his fur gently via matris. Mischief and Scarecrow were on patrol under the kids. Amazing how much food nine otherwise extraordinarily coordinated children managed to drop, even after we explained it wasn't good for the dogs. Not to mention some of the alleged adults. If it wasn't for Asto and I adjusting their metabolisms, the two dachshunds would have been hopelessly obese. Mischief, in particular, would have been a waddling blonde carpet instead of her active, svelte self.

Scimtar continued, "Then when you got tired with that, you spent twenty years in the Imperial military and the Merlon's Eyes. How many team privates earn a Thinker's Medal, even third class? And then you do something far more difficult, deciding to not only become a mother, but to actually carry the first one naturally. And I'll concede that you didn't know the benefits it would have for Esteban, but once you did, you kept at it with Ilora, Ilras, Imtara, and Alden immediately, rather than raising one at a time."

"I grew up with brothers and sisters. I wanted them to have the same thing."

"But you've still given the family five new children in barely six years. By comparison, Anana and Parnit took ten years for four, Anara and Gilras about the same, and Helene and I spaced our first four out over fifteen years. Not to mention all three of the women used artificial gestation - another thing you've managed to change. Sixth and Seventh Order children will be carried naturally now that we know it gives them a head start and a boost in abilities, and we know it because you did it the hard way."

"I'm only a team private. You're all senior officers."

Gilras: "Daughter, I'm the youngest of this generation of the family, and I'm one square fourteen, not to mention we hope we never see the circumstances that led to our rapid promotions again. You are how old? And how many of those years have been in the Empire?"

I still thought of my own age in terms of Earth years - fiftyeight. Personal duration, not calendar. I converted it to Imperial years "Prime twentythree. Fortytwo of them in the Empire."

"Daughter," Scimtar laughed, "Give yourself some time. Fortytwo years after becoming adult, I was still coming to terms with the fact I'd gone operant. Even by the standards of the time, I was weak and untrained. I might have been the equivalent of a first corporal now, but I hadn't done anything else, and the standards of the competition were much lower then."

"But you've given me so much help, and you had to do it all..."

Helene interrupted, "Daughter, you're welcome. You've more than paid us back with the children alone. Would have even if you'd done it with artificial gestation."

"Thanks for that, by the way," Anana interjected sarcastically, "I know there's nobody making me, but I can't not do it your way in the future. Not with the advantages your children gained."

"What she said goes for me, too," Anara continued, "Which demonstrates how much you've changed the Empire, and you're still practically an infant. Our rivals see the effects you've had already, and they wonder how much more you'll do, given a chance. If they're smart - and they are very smart - they're asking what they can do about it."

"So they're going to kill me?" I asked

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on October 11, 2018 10:25 AM.

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