Chapter X.

16 Feb

As Paena looked in the direction where she had spotted Endo, he was no longer visible. Had he seen her and then departed? Was there to be no direct contact, no face-to-face exchange between them? That was unclear to her.

“Hello, Paena,” said a voice she could not mistake for another.

The small young woman turned to the side from which the sound struck her ear. Yes, he was still present in the hall, having stolen up to her from a blind side she had not paid any attention to. Her excitement increased. What was she now to say? How open could she afford to be?

“Hello, Endo,” her voice squeaked as she wheeled about. “How are you? Is your state of health improving? What have you been doing? We haven’t received any word at all from you. We were saddened to learn that you have not provided Tado any new writings since you fell ill. He reported that with severe sickness you would not be able to do any writing until your condition returned to normal.”

Staring into her zaffir eyes, Endo made no immediate response to the questions. He watched her as if expecting some special event to occur. What it might be, he had no idea whatsoever. Paena took the responsibility of preventing a spell of deadly silence by forcing herself to speak.

“I am here for my father, representing Sucre Publications to the extent I can. It is an interesting exhibition, isn’t it?”

Endo decided to move at once to what was torturing him.

“Yes, it is. I see from the ephemerae that your father is busy as a candidate for the Camera. Who could have foreseen such a thing happening?”

She avoided his stare as much as she could. “That was his decision. I would have advised him differently, had he asked me first. But he chose to do it by himself.”

“The Improvers must think he can win and add to their numbers in the legislative Camera. It is highly surprising to me, all of it. Of course, I don’t know the entire story, only what I read in the news.”

Paena attempted to smile. “He has accepted the idea of using Velvet as the model for our own planet. He says that he knows how Horae is to transform itself.”

Endo proceeded to touch the most sensitive nerve he could have found.

“I am not in any way faulting your father for what he is doing. I believe there is an external influence making him act in this uncharacteristic way. But he cannot be himself as long as that power is exercised from beyond himself and his family.

“It is not necessary for me to tell you who the foe is. I can tell that you know where this influence is coming from within the firm. But let me tell you this: my aim is to fight the one doing these things.

“From the beginning of my work with Tado, I had bad feelings about his character. I made the mistake of allowing him to dominate and control me. But a point came when I was compelled to argue with him. The upshot is that I had to break with the man. There was no alternative for me, Paena. I decided I could no longer work with him.

“In fact, that is why I am at the Book Fair. There is something I have to accomplish today. It is only a first step, but anything important or of value begins that way.”

Paena seemed to frown. “I understand,” she murmured with a faint shudder. “For a long time, I have been worried about the aims and goals of Tado. My father is too trusting of him. Tado has too much domination over what he thinks. He has shown himself to be a sly schemer in the exploitation of the Velvet books. You are right to have opposed him, Endo. I should have been more perceptive concerning him. I blame myself for past blindness. But now it may be too late.”

He faced her squarely and directly. “I am here to purchase the new model of dactylograph. All the money I own is in my wallet at the moment.”

“What are you planning to do?” she asked with rising interest.

“I want to continue with the Velvet series, but according to a proper, justified plan. There will be no political propaganda, no tendency attached to it. No self-interests will exploit the work. My book is going to be a wake-up bell for the fans who have organized themselves.”

“I promise you that we will publish it, Endo,” she pledged solemnly.

“An independent work concerning Velvet will have overwhelming support, I am certain of that,” he uttered with solid conviction.

Paena then made an audacious offer to him. “Endo, let me be of help. For instance, let me pay at least half the cost of the print machine. I happen to have some mazuma with me. It will be my initial contribution to the program you just outlined for yourself. Please allow me to help you.”

“I don’t want to cause any trouble for you,” he replied. “Your father would be highly incensed were he to learn what you and I plan to do.”

“You and I must keep the matter as concealed as we can. I am sure we can prevent the editor from learning of it.”

Endo thought a few moments, then stated his position.

“It looks like you and I must conspire together, Paena. But it will turn out to be beneficial to your father too, believe me. He will eventually agree to the publication of a new Velvet novella outside the sphere of power of Tado.”

“All right, then,” she agreed. “Let’s go look at the new dactylographs.”

The pair walked off together toward the section of the displays where typing machines were for sale.

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