Father Stephen leaned towards her as she sat on the opposite end of the lounger. “Iris, we understand there was a bit of trouble out here yesterday. Blaine Middleton’s shuttle was impounded by the Kalquorian security force and his piloting license revoked.”
Iris managed to keep her voice even. “After he nearly ran down Thomas.”
Hoover’s bushy brows squished down over his eyes. “Wasn’t your son at fault? After all, he was standing in the middle of the road.”
Iris didn’t spare the man a smile, though she maintained a polite demeanor. “He panicked when my snow blower broke down and made a noise that frightened him. He’s extremely sensitive to loud sounds and can’t control his reactions. That’s why there are warning beacons on this lane and why the limit is slower here than anywhere else on the colony.”
“I see you have a containment border.”
“It was just installed today. The Kalquorian security head loaned it to me since I couldn’t afford one myself.”
Hoover scowled. “This is a very big problem, Mrs. Jenson. Blaine is a hardworking man with large loads of supplies and cargo to transport. He needs his license and shuttle to take care of a family larger than yours.”
Iris’ temper rose. Hoover’s intimation that Middleton’s family was more important than her son had her ready to swing again. “And I need my son to be safe. If Blaine is determined to hurt people by disabling his warning indicators so he can run over a small child, then I don’t want him to have his damned shuttle.”
Hoover’s eyes widened. Women had not been allowed to use profanity on Earth, and it was obvious he was affronted by her utterance.
Father Stephen remained cool and diplomatic. “Blaine Middleton is most definitely in the wrong here, but we don’t want Kalquorians in our business. We are trying to govern ourselves, to rebuild our lives after Armageddon. We want independence, not alien masters who have no idea what it means to be Earther.”
Iris forced herself to be calm. “So what do you want from me?”
Hoover drew himself up. “We need you to testify to Governor Ospar that what happened was not entirely Blaine’s fault. That you do not hold him liable for an injury that did not even happen.”
“But I do hold him accountable. Thomas wouldn’t have been merely injured; he would have been killed. The only thing that saved him was that Governor Ospar’s own Nobek came to his rescue. I can’t lie against the head of security. Not when he put his life on the line for a small boy he didn’t even know.”
Hoover’s jaw clenched, making him more bulldoggish than ever. “You are putting the Kalquorians ahead of your own people?” His voice rose angrily, and Thomas looked up from his toys.
Iris gazed right in the man’s eyes and did not waver. “I am putting my son’s welfare ahead of Blaine’s stupidity and disregard for the wellbeing of others. If you can get his piloting license re-instated and his shuttle back, more power to you. But I will not help.”
The governor stood. He didn’t try to hide his anger. “You cannot turn your back on your own. It is unconscionable. There are people on this colony who won’t stand for collusion with the Kalquorians.”
Iris stood as well. “This has nothing to do with turning my back on anyone or siding with the aliens. I am my son’s sole protector. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kalquorian or Earther; if anyone endangers Thomas, I become their worst enemy.”
Even her husband Conrad, with his ready fists and kicks, knew better than to challenge Iris’ instincts when it came to Thomas. He must have; he had never raised a hand to the boy. Iris had been the sole receiver of her husband’s abuse.
Father Stephen rose. His tone was placating, gentle enough that Thomas went back to his toys and was quickly re-absorbed in his make-believe world. “I think emotions are running too high right now for us to accomplish anything productive. Iris is a conscientious parent, and she had a bad scare yesterday. Governor Hoover only wants the best for all Earthers on Haven. These are not matters in opposition to each other.”
Hoover’s forehead smoothed, and he managed a conciliatory smile. “Of course not. I apologize if I seem less than sympathetic to the fright you had. It’s just I have so much pressure with the Kalquorians always trying to enforce their rule over us. They do not trust us to govern ourselves, and many chafe under their dictatorship.”
Iris had never seen any evidence of a dictatorship. Even if the Kalquorians had been more controlling, Haven was within their empire’s borders. Who were the Earthers to challenge that? However, it was probably best to meet the temperamental governor halfway.