[This section of chapter 48 has been rewritten…]
“This Council will come to order.”
Rachel barely suppressed the urge to shudder at the terse, stern tenor of Sergei’s voice.
This meeting is going to end badly, she thought, pressing her hands hard against the wood of the tabletop before her. Then again, you already expected that it might.
It was to be the last council meeting with Sergei at the body’s head and it had already started as inauspiciously as she’d feared, with D’Arcy Morgause picking a fight. Then and there she’d decided that the sooner they managed to oust D’Arcy from the Rose Council—possibly even E-557—the better.
The question was how that particular feat would be accomplished—and how much damage would the man do before they managed to deal with him once and for all?
That sounds incredibly final, she thought, barely keeping a grimace from her face. As much as she might have wanted to see him out of the way, actually killing the man didn’t seem like a valid option.
Then again, depending on what he does in the coming days and weeks, we may not have a choice.
Her niece caught her eye, a slightly alarmed expression on her face. Rachel checked herself and turned her attention abruptly to Sergei, who was waiting patiently for the uproar to die away, a vein in his neck pulsing alarmingly.
She stood up and cleared her throat. “The Speaker said come to order,” she bellowed, putting more force behind the words than was perhaps strictly necessary.
The sudden silence that reigned in the council chambers was deafening as all eyes suddenly went to her. Rachel leaned forward against her palms, forcing herself to be calm, to keep her temper in check. “Now all of you sit down and we’ll discuss this like adults. Whether anyone in this room likes it or not, the Inspector General is on her way here and we will receive her with all courtesy due a Commonwealth official of her rank and stature.”
Frederick leaned back in his seat, poker-faced as he watched the council. It had been the simple announcement that Sephora Damerian was on her way to E-557 that had sparked the ruckus that had erupted almost as soon as they’d reached their seats that morning, and that announcement had come from his lips. He was sitting with Lindsay and Brendan, not with the Marshals, which sent a statement all its own.
The look D’Arcy shot in his direction was nothing short of murderous, which left Rachel’s stomach twisting uncomfortably.
She wasn’t entirely sure why D’Arcy had apparently taken a near-instant dislike to Freder Rose, but it was certainly in evidence.
“Thank you, Rachel,” Sergei said, smoothly reacquiring control of the situation. She sank back down into her chair as he rose, gaze raking over the assemblage. “Whether any of us like it or not, we are the council that is tasked with carrying the people of the Foundation and the colony through this war.”
“There is no war,” D’Arcy said stubbornly. “This is a misunderstanding that we should be able to work through. Perhaps if we send an envoy to New Earth—”
“Are you volunteering for that, D’Arcy?” Kara Grace asked, her eyes narrowing. “Are you volunteering to go plead our case before the legislature and hoping that they don’t laugh us out of the chambers? You can’t act as if they give a damn that we were attacked here. The propagandists are already turning us into the villains over the Whispers. You know that. You’ve seen the reports.”
“Isolated reports, I’m sure.”
“I’m sure that the Inspector General will be able to tell us exactly how isolated those reports are when she arrives,” Lindsay said, her voice deceptively mild. Rachel bit the inside of her cheek to kill a smile. The girl was learning, and quickly, and she detected no small amount of America in her “Until then, we have to labor under the assumption that the attack that we repulsed was only the opening salvo for something much larger and much more dangerous.”
“We have no evidence—”
“Mission Systems is here,” Adam said, breaking the silence he’d been cultivating since the meeting commenced. “That should be evidence enough. You don’t move your entire operation and agree to abide to our way of life because you just feel like it. No, you do that because you know something—that the Commonwealth is becoming hostile to anything and everyone that certain conglomerates don’t agree with, don’t like.”
“The psychic refugees are corroborating the reports we’ve gotten,” Lindsay added. “About the propaganda, about the violence and the shift in behavior. There’s something bad happening inside of the Commonwealth, D’Arcy. Can’t you see that?”
His eyes narrowed. “I see what you refuse to see—that there are other explanations for what’s been happening. We can’t jump on one bandwagon because it’s convenient for us to do so. No. We have to look into everything, question everything.
“I will not agree to a war that we cannot win simply because a few psychics and a small conglomerate say we’re being vilified and should fight back.”