Friday, July 13, 2018

Page 1860

The Queen regarded Hector and Garovel both another time. “I see. Forgive me if I seem skeptical. I have had few reasons for optimism, of late.” She removed her hands from the table and folded them over her stomach.

“I can imagine,” said Hector. He wanted to say something more, something reassuring preferably, but nothing was coming to mind.

“This financial crisis,” the Queen said slowly, “it is... my failure. So many of this nation’s problems might have been avoided if I had only been more attentive in these last five years.”

Hector observed her face with silent surprise. He’d been seeing her all over the news lately, giving speeches and the like, and she always looked so confident and composed. But here and now? Hector had never seen her so uncertain.

Come to think of it, her worried reactions earlier were a lot more expressive as well.

It put a question in Hector’s head.

“...Is the crisis even worse than the public realizes?” he asked.

The Queen met his gaze but didn’t answer him.

Perhaps that was an answer in itself, though.

“...Madame Carthrace wants to open a bank in my name,” said Hector.

Helen’s eyes drifted away from him, seemingly in thought. “A bank? Why would she...?”

“Ah... she seems to think that, er... that my reputation would be able to help stabilize the economy. I mean, I don’t know if, uh... if that would work, but... eh... that’s what she said.”

The Queen seemed lost in thought, but she still managed to say, “I see.” And then, after a beat, “Interesting.”

Hector supposed he shouldn’t stop there. “She, uh... she also wanted me to ask you for funding for it.”

Helen frowned at him.

“Ah--if you can’t help, though, then, er, I understand...”

She sighed mildly through her nose and shook her head. “At this time, I am afraid I can offer you no such assistance.”

Really?’ said Garovel. ‘I don’t want to give you a hard time, but it seems a little odd that you wouldn’t choose to subsidize a potential solution to the main problem facing the nation. Or HELP subsidize it, at the very least.

The Queen’s frown deepened. “I would if I could,” she said.

It’s that bad, huh?’ said Garovel.

It is,’ said Mehlsanz. ‘We’re already running on fumes, as it is. The Gala? Everything you see here tonight? Bought with funds borrowed from Intar.

Intar, huh?’ said Garovel. ‘Well, it’s true that they’ve got plenty of money to throw around, but I can’t say I like the idea of Atreya being indebted to them.

“Nor do I,” said Helen, “but it is all we can do to keep up appearances, for the moment. Why, if not for David’s silver tongue, I doubt even they would have agreed to lend us any more.”

And now they’re pressuring us to grant special privileges to their businesses. Their influence is growing stronger by the day.

Well, that corroborated what Madame Carthrace had told him, Hector figured.

He would’ve much preferred to learn that she’d been wrong.

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