Disclaimer: The universe this is set in belongs to Tribune and Roddenberry-Kirschner, among others.

Author's Notes: Darla came into existance long after I created Rosemary Schultz. We were setting up the UK/Ireland division of (the now defunct) ULSG, and I came up with the idea to create the leader of the Liberation for that area. Darla was the result. I eventually ended up playing her, and the rest is history.

This is set before the beginning of the series.

Table Talk
by Estirose
copyright 1999

Mizi was late, but Darla wasn't in a hurry. They had quite some time before both of them were due back at Bookon '3, and Darla was enjoying the free time before she had to go back. Besides, she knew that Mizi would be late. Mizi would be late to her own funeral.

"Sorry," Mizi apologized, sitting down at the table. "Got caught up playing keep-away with an author. I *wasn't* going to let Providence have him. Heaven knows, he's our best religious best-seller...."

"It's quite all right," Darla said warmly, knowing what was coming up next. As the head of the religious arm of a publishing house, Mizi was quite capable of a mind-numbing amount of arguments with rival religious-publishing outfits.

"Up until then, I was having a good day," Mizi moaned, semi-studying her menu. "UK rights for A. Bowman's new translation of Luther's 'Table Talk'. But then I had to run into *that*!"

Darla leaned across her folded menu. "You enjoy arguing, Mizi, and you know it."

A somewhat helpless smile stole across Mizi's features. "You're right, Darla, I do. Otherwise I wouldn't be *in* this industry."

The conversation paused while the two ordered. "How is Robert?" Darla asked after the waiter had gone away. "Still ranting and raving into paranoia?"

Mizi frowned. "Still talking. You know, I'm beginning to believe him, at least some of it?"

"Why?" Darla asked. "Why would Robert start making sense?"

"Most of the time, he is wrong, I know. But there have been some things happening that he's actually been right about. You know Alex Ravachov's book on the Church of the Companions? It was briliant; I read it. I was waiting anxiously for it to either publish in the US or come up to grabs for us. But it never did. You know what kind of responses I got when I inquired about it? They said that the scholarship and investigation was faulty. But they've still got their hands on it and refuse to let anyone else take it. *And* Mandi Engleburg rung me after that and told me that she would oppose any attempt of mine to aquire it for us."

"Was it faulty?" Darla felt obliged to ask, just to let her friend vent.

"No! It was up to his usual standards. In fact, it was the best work of his I ever came across. And his book isn't the only one being quashed, either. I've heard that there are quite a few books out there that are anti-companion that are being quashed at the publishing houses. The only ones getting through are by the nuts, and the Companions easily those who have any credibility. Check it out yourself. You'll see."

Darla sighed. "I have a bad feeling about this. Are you sure, absolutely sure?" she asked.

"Yes. I realize you export books, not import them, but do a little digging for UK authors who are critical of the Companions. You'll see."

The rest of the conversation lapsed into not so critical topics, but the vague things friends talked about when they were face-to-face. But Darla was disturbed. Never had Mizi or anyone else taken Robert Ingle seriously before. It was worth some investigation.

Darla hoped that she wouldn't not like what she found.


Earth: Final Conflict fics