The Price of Demand (Reintegration Edit 4)

“Why d’you think Mitchell has it in for us? We pay dear enough for ‘is union’s services. You’d think the man’d be the least bit grateful.”

Altman continued writing while his wife’s question sunk in. He paused, finger held still above the paper he’d been reading, holding his place. He stared off into the distance for a moment before speaking. “Unless he has some personal stake in hindering us.”

Kaylene’s eyes narrowed. “The Conclave?”

He nodded slowly. “Perhaps. They certainly haven’t been happy with me since I settled here instead of working for them.” He’d done his studies at the Conclave’s Academy with the expectation that he, a top student of his year, would move on to work at the organization’s laboratories. That had been his original plan until life offered him another path.

Kaylene’s heart-shaped face hardened into a frown. “And if the Conclave finds out about the electrite we’re hidin’ here, they’ll waste no time tryin’ to take it out right from under us.”

“Chances are that they’ll learn of it eventually, but we can delay that for a very long time, if we play this right.” He set the papers back down on the desk and met her gaze. “For now, we’ve done all we can on our own to protect it; the deposits we know of are all well-disguised with run down, ‘abandoned’ buildings. The work crews don’t get too close to them. Nobody should so much as spare the area a glance.”

Her mouth quirked in a sardonic smile. “With the luck we’ve had here lately, it’s just a matter of time before someone finds it.”

Altman slumped his shoulders and rolled his eyes. “Not you too!” The tired smile playing at his lips kept the words from seeming harsh.

The smile vanished from Kaylene’s face. “You may not believe in luck, husband,” she said with a serious tone, “but you can bet the men do, an’ I wish you’d learn to understand that. If luck is playin’ a part in our lives, it’s bound to run out at some point. An’ even if it’s not involved, they’ll go an’ get spooked about the place if accidents like this keep happenin’.”

Altman held her gaze but said nothing; she was right, and he knew it.