The Carbonate Manor Lodge was built on the woody hills overlooking the town below. It’s a blocky building made mostly from local stone and timber, and is hidden away behind rows of pine trees. The main dining room’s a large, high-ceilinged room with floor to ceiling windows and native designs and tapestries hanging from the stone walls.
Senator Vance Cabrera sat at a corner table, his face covered in flickering shadows from the candles that lit the dining room as the serving staff took the plates away. Hershel Friedgen watched the Senator nervously. The dinner had gone well enough, but the conversation had remained stilted and had only danced around the intended topic at best.
“This is a lovely town you have here, Mr. Friedgen,” Senator Cabrera said, nodding towards the window. Carbonate was lit up for the evening, just visible between the pine branches.
“Thank you, Senator,” Friedgen said. “Carbonate is always welcoming to guests such as yourself.”
Cabrera reached into his pocket for a silver box. He pulled out a cigar and clipped the cap. A waiter suddenly appeared with a lighter, and Cabrera puffed on the cigar. “I assume the biggest industry here is tourism.”
“It is,” Friedgen said, nodding his head. “But we’re looking to change that.”
“Copper and timber,” Cabrera said.
“But not timber?”
“All our trees are locked up in national forests.”
Cabrera puffed on the cigar and blew the smoke out of his nose. “Are you not even aware of what national forests are for?”
Friedgen shook his head. “I’m sorry, Senator, but I’m not sure.”
A waiter placed a tray of biscotti on the table, and a glass of Vin Santo dessert wine. “All those hundreds of years back on Old Earth, President Roosevelt wanted to preserve America’s forestland for future use.” Cabrera dipped a biscotti into the Vin Santo and took a bite of it. “He didn’t want to protect the trees for protections sake. He wanted to create a reserve of trees for use to be logged later. It takes a long time to grow a tree.” Cabrera rested his cigar in an ashtray. “But what of the copper?”
“What of it?”
“I believe there were promises made of a shipment of copper.”
Friedgen cleared his throat and looked down. Vance Cabrera was the chair of the powerful Committee on Public Lands in the Redstone Circuit Senate. His hair was grey and slicked back and his skin orange from a fake tan. “There were issues.”
“I sent a shipment of 6,000 pounds of copper to Samawa last month, but it was taken by raiders.”
“You expect me to believe that?” Cabrera asked.
“I have death certificates and witnesses to that effect,” Friedgen said. “I’ve been unable to collect enough capital to dig for more.”
“You expect me to finance my own bribe? I always thought it was a metaphor when they said you clod eaters had dirt in your head.” Cabrera laughed. “It won’t be needed anyway.”
Friedgen frowned. “What do you mean, Senator?”
“I have sources back in D.C. telling me that Hawatama and the other territories are this close to being admitted as states.” Cabrera picked up the cigar and puffed on it. “When they do it, they’re going to cut the dirt states from the orbital circuit.”
“And makes us your own circuit?”
“What else would they do?”
“Then maybe I should try talking to a U.S. Senator, then.”
Cabrera laughed again. “You might as well pray to Meshigumee for rain. You’ll have as much success with her as you would with attempting to bribe a U.S. Senator.”
“I don’t have much other recourse, do I?”
“If the geologists are correct, this is the single largest source of copper on this entire world.” Cabrera reached into his pocket and produced a business card. “Here is the name of an investment banking firm on Bisbee. It’s not exactly WalkerWeld or Lehman Brothers, but it has the funds and discretion for a project like this.”
Friedgen took the card and nodded his head. “That still doesn’t solve the problem of not having the necessary permits or licenses.”
“That part will come later,” Cabrera said. “You’ll just need to be patient and wait for the circuit split.”
“That could take years.”
“The copper isn’t going anywhere, now is it?”
“I suppose not,” Friedgen said, shaking his head.
Cabrera picked up another biscotti and dunked it in the Vin Santo. “As they say, Friedgen,” he said, “it takes money to make money.”