Back on top--the original research facilities, portal and security forces had all been located up on what was, on other Worlds, the island of Malta--they were chewing over everything.
The Inquisitor eyed him. "You aren't worried about an invasion?"
"Well, yes. We're too small to fend off any serious attack, if they get a foothold. But even if it's just a smash-and-grab of all the zivvy they can find, they'll leave behind damage we may have trouble repairing and replacing."
That caught the attention of the people around the table.
"Are we still getting regular shipments from Regulous Hub?" He glanced up the table toward the Governor, who nodded.
"And ship-throughs, not even rumors of the Plague from down hub."
The Boss eyed the Governor. "What options do we have to replace those sources, if there is a problem? If we have to shut the Portals?"
Everyone looked disturbed. The rules were simple. Hubs could open a portal outward, but not backwards, to a lower tier, without specific permission. As a Fifth Tier Hub World, They could open to higher tier, but not lower. But the Hub that had discovered them--Fourth Tier Hub Regulous--could open to them and, by contract, received a portion of all trade goods they exported. And Regulous had given them permission to open to them, so they could send and receive shipments at their own expense.
Of course, given that most Portalmakers were barely able to direct where they went to without a beacon, mistakes happened all time. A quiet withdrawal, with an appology from the exploration tean if they'd been noticed, and all was forgiven.
What Fourth Tier Hub Budapest Reborn had done--placing multiple beacons and carrying out a planned attack--was very much against the law . . . and nothing they could stop if they weren't able to send a complaint through four tiers to the Home World. Get it heard. And have them respond.
So complaint and responce have to travel through seven other Worlds. During the Plague. Not good odds.
"Going the other direction, we've opened a lot of worlds." Axel looked down the table at the Exploration Administrator. "What pioneering worlds have we sold & stayed in contact with, ditto resource worlds, vacation worlds etc. Do we have trade that direction? We need some redundency . . .
"And what do we have to trade, if the financial system crashes?"
Uneasy looks around the table.
"What infrastructure do we need to build now, while we have resources, money? For instance, if my cows arrive, do we need a dairy? Can we import specific dairy breeds and people who know what to do with them? Should we import dairy equipment?
"Encourage more farms?" from someone down the table.
"And butchers, tanners . . . maybe we need a list of everything we import . . . " another fellow started tapping at his computer . . .
"Not," the Governor stated, "that it will come to a complete collapse of civilization, but reducing our dependence on portal trade during these unsettling times . . ."
It was late when Axel left and headed back to Vingradov House. So unfortunate he'd missed dinner. He dropped down to the kitchen to beg a snack, and found not a lot handy.
"Where's Miss Agrafina?" he followed the glances. "Are your funds drained already? Let me fix that . . . how much do you need a month and you're already short by the twentieth?"
"Not too short, my Lord, but we weren't certain what would happen now, so we decided to be careful."
"A good precaution, but I'll see what I can do about getting your funds a permanent boost. Maybe build up a backlog of non-perishables." He pulled out cards and got her enough to get through the month, and received assurances that a meal would be delivered shortly. "Just a snack or something, don't go fancy on me."
Miss Agrafina was placing an order with the grocer as he left.
Which was quite disturbing. We're days away from starvation.
The Rangers brought him soup, salad, sandwich, and tea before he'd gotten out of his suit coat and tie.
"Well. I've split Dear Uncle's Trust between the cousins. Unfortunately, they were so cash poor that I was forced to take my management fee in property. Specifically, you four. Now I know I have . . ."