" An annual rate like that... Don't you think it's too restrictive? Your people are the ones who wanted us here," Stheno argued.

" Yes, but with the current tax codes of the Larananda system, this is a completely fair rate. Trying to negotiate for anything less than that would be completely out of line. We won't rewrite any laws here," Pollianna replied.

" Furthermore, Mr. Madoka, you should know that with your current contract with DASS, you must maintain a bare minimum of claiming fifteen percent of grain exports from Larananda-3," another DASS official cut in.

... Meetings were always tense, and an unwelcome thing. William didn't like them.

It was one thing to fight, and another to speak. He kept himself to the corners, and would occasionally interject when he felt the need to. It was better to patiently observe and understand everyone's objectives.

" Of course, it would be for the best if you were to match with the export rates you maintained on Siluria," William commented. " Doing otherwise might upset the aerospace economy even more than the planetary transition. Or we would have to call in other companies to make up the difference."

A stir. A bit of a murmur.

" Wouldn't it suit your interests to have SthenoCorp out of the way?" Stheno asked politely. " After all, you've firmly aligned yourself with political influence from outside the DASS, Commodore General."

A moment.

Eyes on him.

" Stheno, don't you think that your own biased conjecture has no place in a professional setting? I personally think it'd be most advantageous for my position if you were to cooperate with DASS to the fullest extent of your ability."

" Ha, I wonder if that's really so."

A silence.

" Mr. Madoka. I can't help but feel that you're intentionally trying to aggravate the Commodore General in order to distract from the matter at hand," Pollianna interjected. " This is about arranging for SthenoCorp to set up a branch here. Nothing more than that."

... Nothing more than that.