"Not knowing the situation on Home or the Citadel, I have no idea how quickly the Bureau of Alliance Security will send my replacement." Director Michail Rasputin nodded politely to the Council's Emergency Committee. "And frankly, I'm having trouble even guessing what is likely to happen next."
He looked down at his notes. The bullet points he wanted to drop on them.
"Inquisitor Gobechev is still gone. 'Summoned to the Citdel' according to his wife, who has just returned from Regulus, where she had ceased to feel safe. So we are operating with two Junior Inquisitors who can probably assist the police and courts but not make any policy decisions."
And few heads nodded in acknowledgement, lots of frowns. Grigory was born here, and after college and training he returned to serve as a Junior Inquisitor for ten years. Then fifteen years in the Citadel and he was back as a full Inquisitor . . . and he's the only one Siberia Max has known for fifty-five years. Not to surprising the council is at a bit of a loss right now.
If ever we needed an Inquisitor we knew and trusted . . .
"Given the situation on Home and the Citadel, of which we have only what we hope are just wild rumors, I do not know when, or even if, Gorbachev will return or if another Inquisitor will be assigned here.
"I do not like to say this. But the news seems to confirm that no zivvy is being made. The amount of zivvy that remains unused is unknown. It's location is unknown. It is reasonable to assume that some is on the Citadel, having not been shipped out before they realized the 300 could not make any more. Then however much was in the process of being shipped through Home, according to rumor, been captured by at least two bureaus. Additionally, some has apparently been intercepted on at least two Tier Two Worlds while being shipped through."
He let that sink in. "Obviously not Tier Two Stuttgart, since they were so desperate for zivvy.
"Additional rumors makes it sound like there could be up to seven major factions vying for power on Home, and of course, looking at the Citadel as a target."
Definitely an uneasy audience.
"I have people trying to get updated and solid information. I expect . . . hope . . . for a report from Home in another week. If my agent can get back." Please come back Axel! We need Igor so bloody badly . . .
"So for now we have only guesses as to what sort of future we are facing. We need to prepare for the two worst possible. Another invasion. Or being cut off, with no imported food."
"What about Igor?" Councilman Petrov eyed him.
"I don't know . . . and probably won't until my agent returns, or my replacement arrives, assuming he has news, or Inquisitor Gorbechev either returns or is replaced. Or, of course, Igor comes back himself."
Winces and nods.
"So . . . Watching for invasions . . . We have shared with the Government of Regulus the tech and training for our new type of Portal. So they will not be raiding us for zivvy, of which the Research Center has eight hundred and twenty-one pods in cold storage."
Governor Berezin nodded. "A bit less than half what we use every year."
A snort from Councilman Kovalev. "For a large World, a pittance, but also a hundred and thirty Portalmakers. Invaluable, until we spread the new tech. Are we going to spread the new tech?"
"That is a point we need to consider. Do we really want aggressive Worlds to have more portals? If we sit back for forty years, fifty at the outside, all the old Portalmakers will be dead. Worlds without zivvy will be unable to replace them."
Shrug. "One hopes Stuttgart knows better than to return. We are, under the order of the Inquisition, not opening research portals Up Top. But we are utilizing the system to detect portals opening here, and will respond as quickly as possible to any that we detect."
Michail suppressed a sigh. "But if several factions on Home, and two Tier One Worlds have tens of thousands of zivvy pods, they will be able to raid at will, with no fear of reprisal."
"But at the moment we're in good shape?" Councilman Lagunov shook his head. "All we can do is prepare for the worst and hope it doesn't happen?"
Councilman Dobrow frowned. "What about food? Building supplies? What if trade shuts down?"
"One resource World can supply more lumber than we can use, another that ships high grade ore through here can supply all the raw material we need. But can we refine it and manufacture what we need? Not immediately. As to our food supply, we still have regular imports from Regulus, we have several distributors staying in contact with other Tier Five Worlds, plus several resource and recreation worlds we can buy from, or trade electronics."
Michail looked around the room, "We won't starve, but if we are cut off, it'll be a struggle. I . . . really hate to say this, but any people who want to move to a world with a solid agricultural base, should be allowed, even encouraged, to do so."
"And you, gentlemen, need to discuss at what point we begin collecting friendly worlds around us into a trade consortium and ignoring, and hoping to be ignored by, the rest of the Worlds of a dead Alliance."
The man in the center eyed him. "So. Axel Ivan Vinogradov. Agent of the 300. What brings you here?"
"No one has accurate information about the status of the 300, and whether zivvy production will ever resume. This is causing issues well beyond the deaths and non-replacement of members of the 300. I am here to find out, and to ask permission to release a statement of the . . . State of the Three Hundred.
"And convey orders, as needed."
And old man stalked out of the background to glower at him. "So Zima hasn't found anyone who can make zivvy?"
"I believe Grand Inquisitor Zima was killed by Grand Executioner Orlov, who hasn't discovered anyone who can make zivvy."
That got him lots of glowers.
He tried to ignore that the dawn light was revealing that they'd tossed their robes on over whatever they'd been sleeping in. In two cases, nothing at all. Lots of hairy legs and slippers showing underneath.
"So, the Inquistion has finally slipped all control." The first man shook his head. "I am Yezov." A wave to his left, "Kaplan." to his right, "Tokugawa." And the old man from the back, "Chugunov."
"Sirs." Axel bowed. "What do you need to know?"