<== ==>

“Arrogant, vengeful, stuck-up bitch,” cursed Davida, the Mater Tormentum. “Who the hell does she think she is?’

“The one who won the vote,” said Grace, calmly taking a bite of her sandwich.

The food court where the Sisters ate was arranged in much the same way as the voting chamber. Sisters sat with their own delegations, all except for Alice who drifted from place to place. Right now she was joking around with a couple UMBRA Matres.

Henrietta sat three down from Grace, close enough to listen to her conversation but not close enough to actively participate. Manna, who stood behind her Mater with her hands folded, had packed a lunch for Grace while Henrietta ate the (admittedly delicious) potato cakes they served here.

Davida had a shock of orange hair that made her look a bit like a candle. She was a hearty, masculine woman with strong scarred hands and a big chunk missing from her right cheek. Her work on orbital bombardment doctrine was legendary in the fleet, and she was famous for her willingness to get her own hands dirty. A tall and bony woman dressed identically to Manna in a black shirt and pants stood behind her. “Win, fine, but she insulted you,” Davida growled, pounding her fist into her palm. “I ought to kick her ass for that.”

“That’s what she wants,” Grace replied. “To get a rise out of us. Every second you let this bother you, Enron gains a bit more of an advantage. I’m more concerned with the votes… 359? Our estimates had 341, didn’t it?’

Davida shifted uncomfortably. “Yeah… they came from OPTICA. I hear Enron’s been cutting lots of deals with Snow and the rest of OPTICA‘s leadership.” She leaned in close. “Even rumors that soon, she wants OPTICA to join the Lotus.”

Grace sighed. “So that chicken’s finally coming home to roost. Not good, Davida. Enron could gain a permanent majority, she could pass or block any legislation she liked. We’d be helpless.”

“Well, what do you want me to do about it? Blow up her house?” Davida crossed her strong arms. “When you asked me to come to Chantico, I wasn’t happy. I was getting good work done- and there’s a war on, the girls on the front could use me. You promised me a seat at the table if I came, but now I’m hearing that soon our enemies will have total control of the Sorority and we’ll be stuck here with our thumbs up our asses?”

Grace shook her head. “They aren’t our enemies. They’re our sisters who have a different viewpoint.”

“Bullshit. Nobody in my family talks shit about my commander- not with a full mouth of teeth.”

“In any case, I’m enormously grateful for you being here,” Grace said placidly. “My judgment can get clouded when I spend too long in this viper’s nest. Talking to someone who’s been in the shit, who exemplifies vigilance and daring better than anyone I know… you can’t imagine how helpful you’ve been to me, Davida.”

It was a lie- Grace asked Davida to come to Chantico to increase the size of the BEACON delegation by one- but Davida bought it. She grinned like the cat who got the cream. “Mighty nice of you to say that, Marshal.”

“If you’ll excuse me,” Grace said, standing up. She threw Henrietta a nonverbal indication to follow then headed out of the cafeteria, with Manna and Henrietta not far behind.

Grace led her to a lush green veranda filled to bursting with orchids. The garden was meticulous, there must have been multiple full-time gardeners to keep it looking so good. The Mater put a cigarette to her mouth and Manna lit it.

<== ==>

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