The variegated multitude that packed the subterminal warehouse of the formerly Kryos-owned Aerospace Complex waxed shrill beneath a dusky star, its light spilling red as wine through wide retractable windows of the pipe-whorled ceiling, the mechanically circulated air immunized against the frass of a vast complex of fingerlike clouds spilling down from the east, as if to gouge the noisy tissue of the molted steel swathed span. A plain dais, hastily erected where once a considerable pile of scrap metal had stood, on it, the members of the Consortium, elegantly attired, falsely countenanced, were arrayed about a long, elaborately furnished table. In the center sat The Chancellor, her silver mane uncharacteristically unkempt, bags under her eyes, sorrow within them. Her hand moved about her temple and her mouth jerked irregularly.
“Are you alright?” Galton Raka inquired, leaning to the woman with a tenderness which belied his formidable appearance.
“Fine. I’m fine.”
“Where is Gild?” Vays asked between sips from a glass of water, which he savored as if it were expensive wine.
“Aboard The Progenitor.”
“Waste of time.” Ponos Akantha shot in balefully as she aerated herself with an elegant fan of bone.
Garlan Hayl nodded gravely, “Maybe so, but it would look bad, if we didn’t reach out.”
Julian Salis, who occupied the rightmost side of the table glared resentfully at his peers, saying nothing.
Moments later, East Federation’s interim envoy Cai strode through the crowd and greeted the Consortium with the elaborate bow customary to his people.
“Madam, gentlemen, it is an honor to be recieved at this august event. The Bureau sends their warmest regards for seeking a mutually beneficial path.”
“I see you federants remain on the cutting edge of vague pleasantries,” Salis cut in with thinly veiled disdain.
“Julian, that’s quite enough,” The Chancellor snapped.
The envoy turned slowly to the man, forcing a smile, “You seem troubled, Commissioner Salis. Is something the matter?”
“Nothing complaint will change.”
Cai nodded. “Ah, why complain on such a happy day? Iyad Zhu, a man falsely imprisoned, is free, and our two governments engage here in a renewal of positive relations through a program of economic advancement.” The man gestured to the yawning ceiling. “Truly a magnificent structure. We have nothing like it in the heartland.”
“And we have no men as charming as you in Aecer, Mr. Cai,” Akantha cooed.
“Ah, madam, you are too kind.”
Salis scanned the crowd for signs of Ryard Vancing. Finding none, he replied sardonically. “A happy day indeed.”
Momentarily, Cai took his seat and The Chancellor fixed her hair and rose primly, addressing the lively crowd before the dais.
“Times have been challenging of late. As have relations. Between the government and its people. Between Aecer and the Federation and the Southern Republics. But today, we renew our bonds of friendship with the sons and daughters of The Bureau. I am proud to announce that this facility, from this day on, shall be property of our two peoples.” The Chancellor looked to Cai who swelled with pride, then back to the crowd. “Together, with the fleet here developed, we shall no longer fall to squabbling, rather, we shall rise together in a new era of prosperity and peace.”
The crowd erupted into cheers. For a brief moment Agna Richter’s taunt face relaxed into an expression of joy. Seconds later there came a rumbling from deep beneath the facility. The ground shook and all screamed as the complex was enveloped in blinding white light.