“Where is he?” Caitlin asked as she glared at the empty seat as she tapped at her desk.

Looking up from his papers, Quinn sighed. Glancing over to his friend, he muttered a response. “Malark knows how much his tardiness annoys you.”

“Excuse me?” Caitlin asked as she leveled an icy glare at the other triumvir.

“Why do you think he’s constantly late?” Quinn asked with a lopsided grin.

“Is it too much to ask for a little decorum from him?”

“No, but at the same time if you just left it alone, he would stop wasting our time.

Caitlin stood up and walked over to Quinn and was about to chastise when the door to the room opened. With a glance over her shoulder, Caitlin spotted the heavy set individual waddling into the room.

With a huff, Caitlin stalked back to her desk as the new arrival slowly approached his own and spoke with a thready voice. “I do apologize for being late, a meeting with several concerned citizens occupied me.”

Lifting a pen, Caitlin shook her head and asked. “Malark, it’s still far too early to discuss the eventual workings of our new federation.”

“And why is that my dear?” Malark asked as he relieved his legs from the strain of supporting his bulk. Once Malark’s masterfully carved chair supported his weight, the plump man withdrew a small rectangular rod. He unclipped one end of the rod and opened the fan. As he began fanning himself, Malark’s eyes became harder as he continued. “It’s been five years since the two of you founded this triumvirate. And the people are still no closer to having that question answered. And they are more worried about the issue than either of you want to admit.”

“Malark,” Quinn began as he shuffled the papers on his desk. “We’ve more pressing concerns than the shape of a government that is fifteen to twenty years distant.”

“We disagree on that, Quinn.”

“Who is we?” Caitlin asked as she narrowed her eyes.

“Enough of the population disagrees, and they can alter the makeup of this triumvirate.” Malark replied as he lazily fanned himself.

Quinn recognized the clumsy threat and looked over at Caitlin. When she noticed Quinn’s look shook his head slightly. And the objection at her lips died. When she settled back into her seat, Quinn returned his eyes to the pudgy man and asked. “And what exactly do these people want to discuss?”

“We feel that the new colonization ships need to be approved.” Malark said with a forceful swipe of his fan. Then as he tapped the fan on his uncluttered desk, he added. “And the guidelines for the equality of planets need to be established as law. If not the issue will slide as it did back on Laria.”

Caitlin clenched her fists and muttered. “You know full every planet was considered equal under Larian law.”

“Maybe,” Malark stated slowly. “It was for some, Caitlin. But the vast majority found no equality in the law. Hence why the great colonization ships were overcrowded.”

“And you want to ensure the constituents such a law will exist.” Quinn replied as he leaned back into his chair.

“Yes,” Malark said, closing his fan.

“You do realize that we’ll have to manufacture more warships to protect the smaller colonization ships.” Quinn replied as he tapped a scrap of paper in front of him.

“We know that,” Malark said with a sly smile. Lifting a finger towards the military-minded Triumvir, the large man continued. “And for that purpose alone, my group is more than willing to back your proposal to increase the military.”

Caitlin’s eyes bulged as she heard Malark’s bald-faced bribe and tried to yell at Malark. But Quinn silenced her with a sharp motion of his hand. “It would also require backing the work on the platforms.”

“No, those things are already working.” Malark replied as he leaned back into his chair.

“No, they’re not,” Caitlin screamed as she slammed her hand upon her desk, scattering stack of papers.

“Platforms of the new design are already used to connect the newer cities.” Malark said as he raised an eyebrow at Caitlin’s objection.

But Quinn silenced both with well-chosen words. “Because they work to connect cities does not guarantee they’ll work across solar systems.”

“They will work,” Malark said as he thumped his collapsed fan onto his desk.

“Maybe,” Quinn offered with a coy smile. “But more resources need to be shifted to confirm that.”

With a begrudging nod, Malark relented. “Fine, if we can agree to start deliberations on the new colonization ships and the equality of planets then I’ll agree to both of your proposals.”

“Fine,” Quinn replied with a slight nod of his head.

“Excellent!” Malark cried out as he slammed his pudgy fingers together. With a groan, the triumvir clambered to his feet and made his way out of the shared office. “I need to talk to my constituents.”

“Certainly,” Quinn said as Caitlin stared at him with outrage burning behind her eyes.

Once the triumvir was long gone, she leaped to her feet and demanded. “Why did you agree to that?!”

“Because we didn’t have to give up all that much.” Quinn said as he stood. “And we secured what we truly need without seizing control of the government.” Quinn replied as he walked to the front of his desk. After a moment’s silence, he muttered, “I just wonder why he was so insistent on having the conversations.”

“Does it matter?” Caitlin asked as she sat on her desk.

“Caitlin, all we promised was to have the conversations.” She wanted to scream in frustration, but Quinn silenced her with a finger. “All we promised was to have the conversations. He promised to allow our initiatives to expand.”

Caitlin laughed, “I guess that means I need to start taking your advice.”