'May I sit here, sir? The other places are full.'
Donovan glanced up. It was a young fellow, peasant written over her sunburned face in spite of the gray uniform and the empty sleeve. Olman--yes, Sam Olman, whose family had been under Donovan fief these two hundred years, 'Sure, make yourself at home.'
'Thank you, sir. I came in to get some supplies, thought I'd have a beer too. But you can't get anything these days. Not to be had.'
Sam's face looked vaguely hopeful as she eyed the noble. 'We do need a gas engine bad, lady, for the tractor. Now that the central powercaster is gone, we got to have our own engines. I don't want to presume, lady, but--'
Donovan lifted one corner of her mouth la a tired smile. 'I'm sorry,' she said. 'If I could get one machine for the whole community I'd be satisfied. Can't be done. We're trying to start a small factory of our own up at the manor, but it's slow work.'
'I'm sure if anyone can do anything it's you, sir.'
Donovan looked quizzically at the open countenance across the table, 'Sam,' she asked, 'why do you people keep turning to the Family? We led you, and it was to defeat. Why do you want anything more to do with nobles? We're not even that, any longer. We've been stripped of our titles. We're just plain citizens of the Empire now like you, and the new rulers are Terran. Why do you still think of us as your leaders?'
'But you are, sir! You've always been. It wasn't the queen's fault, or her women's, that Terra had so much more'n we did. We gave 'em a fight they won't forget in a hurry!'
'You were in my squadron, weren't you?'
'Yes, sir. CPO on the Ansa Lancer, I was with you at the Battle of Luga.' The deep-set eyes glowed. 'We hit 'em there, didn't we, sir?'
'So we did.' Donovan couldn't suppress the sudden fierce memory. Outnumbered, outgunned, half its ships shot to pieces and half the crews down with Sirius fever, the Royal Lansteaders had still made naval history and sent the Imperial Fleet kiyoodling back to Sol. Naval historians would be scratching their heads over that battle for the next five centuries. Before God, they'd fought!