" Larananda-3... Agricultural planet, hm...?" He looked over the files.

" Agricultural planet?" Nova said, a little incredulous.

" After the White Wind's campaign across the Laras Belt, the most significantly depopulated planets got designated by DASS as agricultural. Most food for the nonplanet-aligned fleets is grown there. Excess is exported as aid for impoverished regions, and facilities are managed by either survivors of the depopulations or by settlers who had no prior independent citizenship."

" Hm. I guess that seems efficient."

Nova seemed distinctly unsettled by the mention of Ifrit's euphemistic title, and the mention of what he had done.

" Anyway, the grain production they're shifting away from Siluria is going to Larananda-3," William continued. " Ah. Damn. SthenoCorp is going to be there too."

" Well, you had to spend all the time with Kaama, so it's only fair, isn't it."

" I would never wish Stheno's presence on anyone."

" Maybe we should set them up," Nova observed idly.

William laughed.

" Oh! That'd be a good one! I think Kaama's too nice for him, though."

" That bad?"

" That bad!"

William leaned back.

" He's possessive and creepy and all he ever thinks about is sex..."

" You're just describing you."

" Noooooooo, Noooova..."

He pressed his face against his side, lying on the desk in front of him.

The door opened, and they both bolted up.

No one was there.

A meow.

" Oh, that's right, Butter has office clearance..."

Nova gave him a look.

" You gave office clearance to the cat? That cat thing?"

" Only if nobody is carrying her and she comes in of her own volition!"

The cat jumped up on the desk behind Nova, and purred at him.

" No. Absolutely not. This is my spot. Wille, get it off the desk, I don't want to touch it."

" She's just a baby, let her be where she wants."

" Wille."

" It's my desk, I say she can be up there."

The cat licked his ear.

" Ah! William! Do something about this!"

He jumped up off the desk.

" She likes you. You have to like her back."

" Never. Not that hell thing. Impudent being. Doesn't it know who I am?"

The cat curled into a neat loaf.

" Cats don't understand politics, Nova," William said, petting her calmly.

Ear flick.

Nova made a frustrated noise.

" Don't act so-"

He picked up William, sat in his seat, and sat him back down on his lap.

" There."

" Ah. This works as well."

" Now talk more about this Larananda-3 while I do my damndest to ignore the cat."