Disclaimer: The universe belongs to Roddenberry-Kirschner, Tribune, and others. I'm just borrowing it.

Note: This follows on a little bit after "Wild Rumours", same timeline.

Other Sources
by Estirose
copyright 1999

"If people believe that the Taelons mean us only good, then they are blind to the truth. Why would they be expending their resources and giving us things, if not to entice us into doing anything they ask? Can't we even think of trying to find the price tag? For if we do not, we have effectively sold ourselves out for what are no doubt cheap gifts, to beings who are no doubt laughing over how little they're giving us."

Darla listened quietly to the speaker. Pete Fram was one of the loudest voices in the Bromley Business Association, and not beyond speaking his mind and not caring who was listening. Which, of course, tended not to be the rest of the BBA. Pete Fram had been a windbag for a long time, and people had a hard time taking him seriously in anything except business.

So far, Darla had been collecting an odd variety of authors, booksellers, distributors, and other people who happened to be predicting dire things about the Taelons. It was so unfortunate that many of the people who spoke out publicly were either regarded crazy or not worth listening to. But then, who knew if some of them weren't being disregarded because the Taelons had been quietly besmirching their name?

Beside her, someone laughed. "You've always been too much of a pessimist, Pete. Why do people help the hungry and the homeless? Why do people try to make others' lives better by introducing them to technology? It's because the Taelons are charitable."

Leaning towards her, Cynthia Miller said, "I think the old man's lost it this time."

"It's too bad," the man who had spoken replied. "I hear his business is better than ever."

But Darla knew better. The whispers in the book industry had been alarming, impossible to ignore, and true. But Cynthia ran a clothing store, and the man, she recalled, one of the local restaurants. Not places where the Taelons' actions would even be noticed.

She had to talk to Pete. Ask him if he had any more information. After all, she was a good researcher, looking at all the sources before she put anything concrete down. So far, all of her research had pointed her in a disturbing direction.

The direction Pete was going.

Darla caught him before he disappeared off. "Pete, what you said-"

"Is all true," he said gruffly. "I'm not playing devil's advocate, if that's what you think."

"I didn't," she said. "I was hoping you could tell me more. I've been getting much the same information, and was hoping to correlate it if you have anything outside the book industry."

"Call me tomorrow, bring what you have," Pete told her, with his mind obviously on wherever he had to go. "And I'll see how I can help you."

With that, the man was gone. Darla didn't mind, her mind already on what she needed to bring.

She had a lunch date, and she would not miss it for the world.


Earth: Final Conflict fics