“Archerd!” the voice called from farther down the street. He stopped at the sound of his name, startled out of a deep contemplation.
He turned and searched the street with his gaze, quickly spotting the suit-coated figure waving at him from among the crowd. “Maevin!” he called out to the fellow. “There you are! I had just stopped by to call on you,” he continued as they navigated the sidewalks toward each other.
“So I heard, old chap,” the other huffed. “I hurried on to catch you before you got too far. Damn your long stride!” His face was flushed red. “I have excellent news, so I do hope you appreciate the extra effort on my part!”
“Well let’s have it then,” Archerd exclaimed, “though we should perhaps retire back to your office,” he added with a glance at the throngs of people strolling the downtown streets of Dolesham.
They hadn’t traveled far from Fredik Maevin’s residence, and a scant few minutes later Maevin had pulled a sheaf of correspondence from a locked drawer in an extravagantly carved desk. A servant poured a generous measure of wine into a cup for Archerd, something stronger for Maevin, and retired from the room.
Once they were alone, the older man’s florid face broke into a wide grin. “We did it!” he crowed. “The approvals, Archerd!”
Archerd felt a flush of mingled excitement and relief flood through him. “That’s wonderful news! The appropriations committee didn’t raise a fuss?”
“With your family history? With your own history? Come now, my friend. You scarcely needed me at all for this.” He gulped from his glass with gusto. “Most of them folded with just the words “Archerd Dolet wants,” they barely even paid attention to what you wanted, let alone why or how much it would cost.”
A thin wisp of cloud moved in to cast a shade on Archerd’s enthusiasm. “Most of them?” He frowned.
Maevin paused abruptly in thought, glass halfway to his lips once again. “Well, yes. Old Codlin is the only holdout—”
“Maevin! This isn’t all of the approvals?” He tried to hold in his frustration, but for this to come up again after so many fruitless months was more than he could bear. “What does he want this time?”
Maevin drained his glass and shrugged apologetically. “I know, Archerd, I know it’s frustrating, but you know Codlin. He doesn’t approve of—well, what he calls your ‘familially institutionalized spendthrift’s ways.’”
Archerd firmly throttled the rage-inducing frustration as quickly as he could, though he knew it showed all over his face. “That—that—”
“It’s not that he doesn’t know what you and your family have done for this city,” Maevin placated. “He’s well aware that without the Dolets, there would be no Dolesham at all.”
“But that’s no excuse for fiscal irresponsibility,” Archerd quoted. “Has he never looked at a budget sheet before? How is he incapable of seeing the simple cause and effect relationship that these expenditures reap far more income than they ever cost?”
“Don’t tell me, tell him. Maybe you can get him to listen to you. I’m afraid it’ll be some days before he’s going to consent to see me again.”
“I swear, he never gave me this much difficulty over the communication devices,” Archerd growled.
“The idea of a flying machine didn’t seem to sit well with him, I admit,” Maevin thought out loud. “Perhaps that explains his extraordinary stubbornness.”
The approvals were critical to Archerd; he’d been without a new source of income since