Copyright© 2015 by Gordon Johnson
Jeannette replied, "It is a compliment, actually, to find that someone thinks of me as a desirable woman. It doesn't happen often."
Enid added, "Anyway, dear, you have my permission to ogle her. I get plenty of ogling from you, so she deserves a little attention. She is a nice woman."
Tom was gobsmacked. Permission to admire another woman? This was unheard of. He wondered. "Enid, are you pregnant again?"
"Why, Tom, how nice of you to notice! Yes, I am. How did you know?"
"When you start acting out of character, I know something is up." He hurriedly turned to Jeannette, "No slight on you, my dear. You are indeed a delightful creature. It is Enid who is different tonight."
"No matter, dear," said Enid. "How did you get on at work today? Any word from The Personalia?"
"There was indeed. They have managed, by devious ways, to confirm that Jeannette's story is true."
Jeannette heaved a sigh of relief. "Nice to get my story proved, Tom."
Tom hesitated before going on. "There is more. They cannot say who your Malan child is, just from the records on Earth, held by that lawyer firm. There is a possibility that DNA might suffice to show a link to a particular child, so they want a saliva sample for testing, if you are willing to provide that, Jeannette."
"Of course, Tom. Do I have to kiss you, to give it to you, or will a sample tube do the job?"
Enid giggled at the suggestion. "I am all for belt and braces, Jeannette. Give him both."
Jeannette got up from her chair, a trifle unsteady due to the wine, and came over to kiss Tom on the lips. "Belt done. We need a sample tube for the braces."
Enid laughed at the shocked expression on Tom. "Tom, you should see your face!" She described it: "Pleasure and guilt, all rolled into one."
Jeannette had another look in his direction as she sat down on her own chair. "Yes, Enid. I think he enjoyed that saliva test."
Tom tried to get back to normal. "The other matter is that I neglected to consider the safety of the other mothers of Malan children. There are probably three other human females of Earth, who did what you did, Jeannette. They would not be safe if we published just now."
Jeannette put her hand to her mouth, in fear. "Oh, yes. The poor girls. They may be picked up and hidden away to prevent their story coming out; maybe worse."
Enid was similarly shocked at the thought. "We can't have your story coming out at this time, Jeannette, I agree. Can you stay with us while Tom gets a search started, somehow? They would all have to be brought to Rehome to prevent them being gagged for ever."
"Yes, you are right, Enid. If it is not too much of a nuisance to you ... I can pay for my stay, any reasonable sum. The British Government paid me for my "duty", and there was that so-called inheritance from America, so I have some capital, and if I sell my house in Yorkshire ... I don't think I am going back there... , I will have some cash."
Tom remarked, "Talking about finding cash, Enid tells me you suggested me finding a publisher on Rehome. As far as I know there is NO publisher on Rehome, apart from our online newspaper business. We don't publish books."
Jeannette had also been thinking, so she responded, " ... yet".
Tom was startled. "What do you mean? I can't get into publishing books!"
Jeannette smiled dangerously at him. "No, but I could."
"How could you? It is not just a matter of setting up the business. You need capital and experienced staff."
"Yes?" Jeannette looked at him with a predatory grin. "I told you I worked for a publisher, didn't I? And I got paid for my work with the aliens, one way or another."
Tom snorted. "Working with a publisher doesn't give you genuine publishing experience, my girl!"
"True, Tom, but working as a publisher's manager does, you know."
"What? You actually had a job producing books?"
"I did; not for very long, I admit, and I had to work with colleagues who had more experience, but I got it done. Our throughput was about one book a month, so you had to become pretty slick. The actual work was not terribly complicated. The contracts with authors were standardised, with just bits to be tweaked according to how experienced the author was; how successful previous books by them had been; and whether the topic had the potential for large sales.
"We had editors to read the submitted manuscript and advise on alterations. These had to be discussed with the author and agreed. Then the author had to make the changes we wanted, and resubmit the text, then we would be ready for printing. In the meantime I had to negotiate with our printers on the printing deal. The longer the print run, the cheaper per copy the price was, but one didn't want to end up with too many remainders. These would have to be sold off to a bargain books retailer at not more than the printing cost price."
Tom looked at her, and exclaimed, "Good grief, you do know your stuff!"
"Yes, Tom. The biggest investment is during the stages of getting the book to market, with the printing being a large part of it. Of course, there are subsidiaries involved on the income side: serialisation, if the book warranted it; media rights; perhaps a book club edition later on; and so forth. Then there is the time lag before sales income starts coming in."
"I understand that, Jeannette. That is where the outside investor is needed. We don't have access to that sort of capital, at the moment."
Jeannette smiled at Enid, and said quietly, "I can advance up to a million US dollars, if it is needed."
Tom's jaw dropped. He found himself lost for words.
Finally, he managed to say, "Your Tom left you that much?"
"No, Tom. My Tom didn't leave me much: just the house we had invested in No, this is the money that came from the Americans. It officially was an inheritance from an unknown relative, but I am certain it was their sneaky way of paying me; a way that would not lead back to them."
He felt a flash of insight. That lawyer firm with the military grade encryption: that was part of the process of hiding their activities. They intended nothing to lead back to them.
He returned his thoughts to the present subject.
"Jeannette, are you thinking of setting up a publishing company then?"
"Actually, Tom, I was thinking we could set it up as a subsidiary of your newspaper firm."
"Oh dear." That came from Enid. Jeannette glanced at her in surprise. "What?" she asked. Tom cleared his throat in embarrassment.
"Jeannette, the Rehome News is NOT owned by me. It is owned by Rehome Colony. It was set up by them as a vehicle for keeping the settlers informed about what was going on around them, and as a means of telling everyone what the Administration had decided about important matters, like education. I am an employee of the Colony."
It was Jeannette's turn to feel embarrassed. "Oh, I am sorry, Tom. I misunderstood. Please forgive me." She went over to his seat and kissed him, this time on the cheek.
As she resumed her seat, she mused, aloud, "I wonder if the Colony will sell us the newspaper business, with a guarantee of ultimate editorial control still in their hands?"
Tom admitted, "I have wondered about that, myself, but didn't have the wherewithal to finance such an idea. It may be worth exploring. Why would you want to buy the newspaper?"
"If you have an existing business, it is usually simple to add a new strand to the operating company; easier than setting up an entirely new business. It would mean simply setting up a publishing arm to Rehome News."
Tom was now openly admiring her. "Jeannette, you are a wonder. Everything we need has come in one lovely package." He blushed again and turned apologetically to Enid. "Sorry, my darling. I was getting carried away."
Enid waved away his apology. "Not a problem, my dear man. I am equally enthusiastic about this young woman who has fallen into our hands. She is offering us an opportunity to be involved in a larger business; is that so, Jeannette?"
"I suppose so, Enid. I hadn't thought all of this through in advance. It just seemed to fall into place as we talked. You have both been so nice to me, that I felt I should reciprocate."
Enid narrowed her eyes as she peered intently at Jeannette. "My dear, I can see something else. You kept mentioning never having had your own child. Is that one of your targets, here?"
Jeanette sat erect, her stiffness appearing to indicate shock. She stared back at Enid, thinking to herself. Still looking at Enid, she said, slowly, "Yes, that would be one of my desires, should it become possible ... either in wedlock or outside it."
She continued keeping her eyes on Enid. Enid relaxed slightly, and a smile came to her face. She spoke to Jeannette. "Yes, that might be a possibility, my dear."
Tom had not observed this exchange, having all his attention on the matter of control of Rehome News. He had decided that a chat with the Governor, as the representative of the Colony, might be worthwhile. Tom's record of reliability in running the newspaper would give some support to a proposal to take over ownership; with provision for the Colony to exert control where needed.
He need to clarify an important point.
"Jeannette, can I ask you, do you want the approach to come from you, as the primary investor, or from me, as the de facto manager of the business? We need to discuss with the Governor the possibility of private ownership of Rehome News."
"Well Tom, as you are the one who..." Tom's phone rang. He apologised, "Sorry. I had better take this. Hello?"
"This is The Personalia, Tom Pfeiffer. We have been considering the plight of the mothers of the other Malan children, which you did not mention. We have done our own investigation, but this time starting at the other end. That was when it was first agreed that Earth scientists would attempt cloning.
"What we have done is to look at the recorded movements, to date, of each of the people we dealt with at that time. Despite their attempts to confuse the record, we found them from credit card use in stores; police records for minor crimes such as speeding; driving licence applications and renewals; insurance applications and renewals; planning applications to build a house, or build extensions, etc.; and such.
"This has given us a geographic pattern of their movements throughout the United States of America, and we found that the most frequent point of overlap in their movements was at a Marine Corps military base in Albany, Georgia.
"From that, we accessed many thousands of historical records of phone conversations to and from that base, seeking any mention of medical information. This reduced the number of calls somewhat, so we next sought calls which used encryption software, on the basis that if a phone call had to be encrypted, it had significant concern to the caller. We farmed the calls out among ourselves, to step up the time it took to decrypt them.
"This enabled us to identify a number of calls which we surmised related to women pregnant with Malan foetuses. Using that data, we were able to identify five expectant mothers. One of them was easily identified as Jeannette Nabarro, and we eventually found that the others were named Margo Ruiz, Esme Limbada, Ruth Proctor, and Esther Price. It was not clearly stated, but we believe none of them were married at that time.
"We are now in the process of looking for these ladies, who may or may not be in the United States; who may or may not have married thereafter; and who may or may not have died since that date.
"It will take us some time to research these possibilities. We started with phone records; marriage register indexes, death register indexes, social security records, and medical records. This has already narrowed down the number of people with these names, but when we find a marriage record for one of these names, we have to follow that up by a search for her under her married name.