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While all of the Council Houses have a wide variety of commercial interests, the Tremaynes are best known for their ownership of Insight, much as people instantly think of ‘mercenaries’ when the Steiners are mentioned, or ‘biotech’ for House Bardan. Tremayne StarFreight and their extensive media holdings generate far more wealth for the Tremaynes than Insight does directly, but it is Insight that creates the image of the Tremaynes in the popular imagination as information brokers – or sinister masterminds, as their detractors would put it.
Insight defines its purpose as refining data into information, information into knowledge, and then making the best use of that knowledge. The company’s operations are organised into three tiers, defined by the resources expended. The first tier deals in publicly available information, and publishes periodicals such as the weekly news magazine Insights, as well as an entire library of factbooks and references. The second tier acts as a consultancy, carrying out specific research and detailed analysis for clients as required. The third tier functions more like a national intelligence agency, sifting and analysing through all of the information they can gather in an attempt to ferret out secrets. Unlike a national agency, Insight are happy to sell or trade the secrets they uncover, and indeed a number of different intelligence agencies working for various governments have standing commercial arrangements with them.
There are persistent stories of a secret fourth tier, and these rumours usually suggest wildly improbably sources of information and analysis methods that border on the dark arts. None of these rumours have any verifiable basis, and it’s entirely possible that the Tremaynes have created the rumours themselves to bolster their reputation.
The Dragon’s Rise: An Analysis of the Draconis Alliance by Professor Jen Guatella, Margrethe University Press
“Oh look, first in the office on Monday morning, once again. How did I know you would be sitting with half a day’s work done before the rest of us slackers drag our sorry tails in here? How was it I was able to come prepared for this eventuality?” Anita DaCosta declaimed as placed a polyfoam cup of coffee on Catriona Marks’ desk and then took a long swig from her own cup.
“Because you’d be a sorry excuse for an analyst if you couldn’t see that pattern, given the historical trends,” Cat replied drily. She took a swallow of coffee. “Thanks and good morning Anita, and how is your sorry tail today?”
“Not sorry at all, girlfriend. Let me tell you… “ Cat smiled and half listened to her friend’s outrageous story of her escapades while she kept scrolling through the discussion threads on her screen. Anita wouldn’t mind. Anita was understanding and thoughtful, as well as being tall, dark, beautiful and about twenty more times extroverted than Cat had ever dreamed of being. They had both joined Insight as part of the same intake last year, and while Cat had cautiously felt her way into living here in New Amsterdam on Margrethe, Anita had joyously thrown herself into exploring a new city on a new world, and then shared her discoveries with Cat and their fellow graduate trainees.
“So, what did you get up to last night then Cat? Anything exciting?”
“Not really,” Cat said distractedly. “I ordered in some Italian, had a bath, read a couple of chapters of Gina Tolliver’s new book and got an early night.” Anita snorted disgustedly and was about to say something when Cat started waving both of her hands through her holo interface rapidly. After a couple of minutes she sat back as the search she had set up ran.
“Anita, what does the phrase ‘manifest destiny’ mean to you?”
“Historically, building the United States on Earth. Which wasn’t always good news for anyone living in the states they were looking to unite.” Anita had been a history major. “More generally, it’s usually a rallying call for one gang of people to do something shitty to another gang of people because it’s all right and proper. Given the way you were reading stuff while I was telling you all about last night, it’s not a random question, is it?”
“Not exactly. I’ve seen it five times this morning in the downloads – once in general economics, once in social reform and three times in the external affairs board. Looks like it’s something of a meme.”
“Oh great. Of all the memes that could start knocking around the Polaris Federation, ‘manifest destiny’ is not the one I’d choose to have their consensus latch onto.” Anita drained her coffee cup. “And now that you’ve scared me, time for me to catch up on the Albion gossip columns before Luis wanders through here and gets shitty about us bouncing ideas off each other instead of doing what he considers proper work. After all, that’s his manifest destiny – to be an asshole. See you at lunch!”
Cat shrugged as she set up a consensus model of the manifest destiny meme. Phrases like that came and went all of the time in discussion boards, and they rarely made much of a dent in the underlying consensus that actually determined policy. The algorithms that translate millions of discussions into a set of preferences and directives would filter out all sorts of transient noise, otherwise it could never establish a consistent set of policies. Still, it would be worth seeing just how much this might affect long term trends, and it would be interesting to see where the meme originated. Any thought leader putting out ideas like ‘manifest destiny’ would bear keeping an eye on.
“How’s the economic policy trends analysis coming along, Miss Marks?”
Wonderful. Cat hadn’t even noticed Luis Barr-Tremayne come strutting up to her desk, she had been so absorbed in her thoughts. Strutting was the only way to describe how Luis walked around the office, completely suffused with his importance as a tier three section coordinator and a member of the Tremayne family that owned the company. Even if, as Anita liked to put it, he wasn’t a real Tremayne – not yet, anyway.
“I’ve got some models running against the baseline at the moment. There’s something else showing up in the latest downloads that could be –“
“Economic policy trends, Miss Marks. That’s what will be useful. That’s where we will find something useful. Something saleable. Some that justifies bonuses, or, for that matter, continued employment.”
Cat ground her teeth. Tier three analysts were supposed to follow their nose and look into anything they thought might be worthwhile, even if Luis insisted on micro-managing. Or, as he would put it, providing clear direction towards the most profitable endeavours. The fact that he was incapable of analysing the current state of the weather if he stuck his head out of a window was neither here nor there. Unfortunately, the one thing Luis did have an actual talent for detecting was any sign of defiance from his subordinates.
“So what, exactly, have you been spending your time on this morning, Miss Marks? That isn’t economic policy trends analysis?”
“There’s a meme that seems to be cropping up across several boards…”
“A meme? A meme?” Luis raised an eyebrow, a trademark expression that the entire team were convinced he spent hours practicing in front of a mirror. “Nobody wants to pay good money to Insight to find out about memes. Let me tell you…”

Cat stabbed her fork into the nest of pad thai on her plate and twirled it savagely. “So then he told me exactly what the ten highest paid research findings were last year, and explained how none of them were memes.”
“That, my dear, is because Luis is an idiot, which should not be news to you.” Unlike her friend, Anita wielded chopsticks with blinding speed and deadly grace, effortlessly picking choice morsels out of her seafood salad. “What was item number three on his list?”
“How public opinion pressures in the Albion Star Empire delayed the annexation of Burroughs Star by four months.”
Anita smiled. “A report written by yours truly. And would you care to guess how I identified the opposition and quantified it enough to model the actual impact? Semantic analysis and meme indexing. And that’s in the Star Empire, where public opinion is only of secondary importance. You’re looking at the Polaris Federation, which is run by a consensus!”
“So, you’re saying what I was looking at is valuable?”
“I’m saying that anyone with half a brain watching the Federation would kill for advance warning on trending memes, that the downloads we get are more complete than anyone outside the Federation sees – and that includes Albion MI6, I should know – and that I’m bored talking about Luis over lunch, and should discuss why both of us need to find men right now.”
“I didn’t think you did too badly last night,” Cat said.
“In my case, I mean right now – I need someone I can exact chip tax on. In your case, the need is more general.”
“I’ll be the judge of my needs,” Cat replied. “And what’s chip tax?”
“When you want to eat a few chips, but don’t want to order a full portion, that’s when you need to bring a man along for a meal. The big dears always order a big slab of meat with chips, it’s a Y chromosome thing, and then you can confiscate some of them. Chip tax, spiders and pickle jars, the three reasons for keeping men around – apart from the obvious, of course!” Anita concluded smugly.
“So you’re saying I need a man in my life so that I can swipe chips, get rid of spiders and open pickle jars?”
“And the obvious! Just so happens I’ve identified a suitable candidate for you as well.”
“Uh-huh…” most of the men Anita met socially weren’t exactly Cat’s type. To be honest, she wasn’t entirely sure these days what her type was, although after David she knew that ‘able to cope with a woman being smarter than them’ was a good start.
“Oh you’ll like Josh. Bit quiet, has a good sense of humour if you don’t scare him to death, seems more the type to stay at home with a book than go out partying but you can’t have everything.”
“So how did you manage to meet him then?”
“In the office. He’s a navy lieutenant, works in intelligence as part of the team that buys intel from us. He comes by every week for a briefing. He’s due in on Wednesday, I’ll introduce you.”
“Thanks, I think.”
“Don’t look so dubious. I’ll bring him by your desk after the briefing, introduce you professionally and we’ll all go grab a coffee. If you want to give him your number, that’ll be entirely up to you.”
With lunch out of the way, Cat made a point of setting up a series of economic models and sending Luis a status report with a couple of terabytes of raw data attached before checking on her other searches. Nothing conclusive there, unfortunately. The meme looked to have originated somewhere outside the data downloads available. With a sigh, Cat set up a request for a further search on the meme when the next set of downloads came in, and went back to the economic data.

Wednesday brought another download, and Cat let her meme search run in the background while she made a point of focusing on the economic data, since Luis was in one of his prowling moods. She was engrossed in comparing the latest model results to the previous set when she heard Anita’s voice behind her.
“… and this is Cat Marks, when she’s on the same plane as the rest of us. Hello, calling Cat Marks!”
Cat jumped. She stood and turned, to see Anita in her new geometric print summer dress that they had bought on the last weekend’s shopping trip, accompanied by a slightly earnest looking dark-haired young man in a navy uniform. Cat had completely forgotten about Anita’s promise to set her up, and was wearing a simple cream tunic and trousers. Presentable, but nothing special.
“Hi,” she said, holding out her hand. “You must be Joshua?”
“Ah, yes. Lieutenant Joshua Naylor, at your service.” He gave a quick, reasonably firm handshake. “Sorry if we disturbed you…”
“That’s OK, I probably needed to come up for air anyway,” Cat replied. “I was looking at – well, never mind. If I told you, my boss would probably tell me off for giving away freebies.”
“Really?” Joshua asked.
“Really,” Anita said firmly. “Let’s just say that our manager takes a certain amount of managing, and go get a coffee, which will probably be the most exciting part of Cat’s day.”
“Really?” Joshua said again. “Because I’m afraid to say that coffee with junior officers like myself isn’t generally regarded as thrill-a-minute stuff.”
“Afraid so,” Anita said as she guided both of them over to the elevator. “Cat spends her days deep in research, and her evenings engrossed in Gina Tolliver novels.” Cat glared at Anita behind Joshua’s back, but Anita just grinned back at her.
“Spy thrillers, eh?” Joshua said with interest. “Have you seen Marco Tiell’s new one?”
They talked books on the way down to the cafeteria, and then the talk turned more businesslike, with a pleasant thread of banter on the side. Joshua was interested in the economic trends work Cat was doing, especially when she mentioned that there might be some movement in Polaris Federation defence spending, and was even more interested when she mentioned the ‘manifest destiny’ meme.
“That’s exactly the sort of thing the boys and girls over in Intentions are looking for. If you can get some solid info on how that idea is trending and what sort of influence it’s having, if it’s likely to spark off some other idea…”
Cat nodded. “That’s exactly the analysis I’ve got running now. I’ll keep you posted.”
“Please do,” Joshua said as he stood up. “I’ll look forward to hearing from you.”
“He likes you,” Anita said with a grin once Joshua had left.
Cat shrugged. “He’s interested in the work I’m doing.”
“Girl, that was twenty per cent interested in the data, and eighty per cent interested in you. And you played him cool. Didn’t even ask for his number. For shame!”
“I was – we were just talking about work!”
Anita sighed. “Nerds! Cat, you and Joshua are both so sweet, but you need help if you’re ever going to get anywhere. Maybe,” she continued in a low and wicked whisper, “someone needs to establish a captive breeding programme?”
Cat’s blush lasted well after she got back to her desk.

Days went by. On some of these days, there was fresh data from the Polaris consensus for Cat to work with, on others she mulled over what she had and wrote up the results. There was nothing startling in any of the economic discussions she monitored, but there were some solid trends that she could report to Luis and he could pass on to the Collation and Marketing department. The phrase ‘manifest destiny’ continued to show up – it hadn’t gone viral, but was cropping up regularly enough for Cat to mention it to Joshua. She told herself that he genuinely had been interested in the meme, and it wasn’t just an excuse to call him. Nonetheless, this time Cat made sure she asked Joshua out for dinner as well. This was, Cat was convinced, solely for the sake of a quiet life and to stop Anita teasing her.
Needless to say, Anita was smug about the whole thing for an entire week.
Cat had chosen Catullus for their date, probably the best of the neo-Roman restaurants that were springing up all over Draconis space and beyond these days. Unlike a lot of the others, Catullus had a chef who had actually trained under Vince Tribeca at his Triclinium restaurant on Earth, where the trend had begun. Cat got to the restaurant slightly early and found Joshua standing outside and looking at the menu with a slightly stricken expression. She walked up and slipped her arm through his.
“Hi, Joshua. Shall we go in?”
“I’m not sure. This is a bit…”
“Nothing you like on the menu?”
“It’s not that, exactly,” Joshua said with a bit of a blush. “It’s just that, well, I’m only a lieutenant…”
“My treat,” Cat said with a smile. “Insight pay us more than I really know what to do with. That’s not a problem is it?” she asked, while thinking Oh please, not another one like David.
“Not as long as you let me pay for the next one, I suppose,” Joshua said as they stepped inside. The décor was much more modern than Roman, all chrome and coloured glass, and they were immediately greeted and shown straight to a corner table equally modern with self-adjusting smart plastic chairs. The waiter brought out a basket of bread with dipping wine and olives, took their drinks order and left them to study their menus.
“Dormouse?” Joshua said. “Oh, I see – it’s actually rabbit in a honey and poppy seed sauce in the style the Romans served dormice. Actually, that sounds quite good.”
“Go for it. I like the look of the seafood platter myself,” Cat said. She hesitated, then went on. “Look, I really don’t want to talk about work all evening, but there was something I wanted to ask you. Have you heard of Lucentum?”
“That’s a Latin name, means ‘city of light’ and was the ancient name for the city of Alicante, in Spain. It’s also the name of an Alliance member world that’s on the border with the Polaris Federation. That last nit I know from my day job, the rest is just the sort of useless stuff that I pick up and means that I’m great at quizzes and bore most girls rigid. Sorry.”
Cat smiled. “I’m not ‘most girls’, Joshua. As long as you don’t start in on sports or celebrity gossip, you probably won’t manage to bore me. But I asked because some of the same people who were using that phrase we talked about have been mentioning Lucentum.”
“Well, it is out on their border. Government is pretty solidly pro-Alliance, but there are pro-Federation Unionist opposition groups on Lucentum. The place is pretty much run by a select group of families who get the lion’s share of benefits from off-world trade. There’s a lot of resentment, although the oligarchs do spread enough of the goodies around to keep things from boiling over. In short, pretty typical of maybe a third of the worlds in the Alliance.”
Cat looked surprised. “You don’t sound like a big fan of the Alliance.”
“I’m… look, I support the Alliance. I think it’s a great idea. All these worlds, coming together to trade and help each other out while still being free to do things their own way. I don’t even mind that a bunch of rich families organised it and got even richer off the back of it. I do think it’s a shame that being free to do things their own way seems to amount to being free to be shitty to their own people in a lot of cases. But I’m Navy. We aren’t supposed to have any politics beyond defending the Alliance, and we do that without any preference or favour to anyone. I’d like to be prouder of the Alliance we defend sometimes, but I’m proud that we defend it.”
Joshua flushed, took a deep swallow of wine, and started to apologise, but Cat put her hand on his.
“Don’t be sorry. You care, I get it. And I think you and the rest of the Navy do an important job. Besides, I’m not going to criticise, am I? Sitting here having a wonderful dinner paid for by a generous salary from one of those rich families.”
“That wasn’t really fair of me. And they aren’t all families…”
“Details. And enough politics, Joshua. Let’s set the rules for the rest of the evening – no work, no politics, no religion. Let’s see if we can think of something else… tell you what. You tell me the stupidest thing you’ve ever done, and maybe I’ll tell you mine.”

The next morning, Cat was back at her desk as early as ever, but with a smile on her lips. It had been a fun date, in the end, and Josh had been a perfect gentleman. She’d have to do something about that.
There was another data download from the Polaris consensus to be sifted through this morning. Cat kicked off all of her regular analysis jobs, plus one extra search she had added to the stack. Since both the mentions of ‘manifest destiny’ and Lucentum had come from, or at least through, the same posters, the new search would correlate any new phrases that that set of individuals started using.
Cat hadn’t really expected that search to throw up any results, but there was a clearly trending new phrase. It was used in a civil order discussion, to refer to criminals. It appeared in external affairs in reference to the Draconis Alliance, the Royal Albion Star Empire and the governments of Lucentum and Winterfell. It was even applied to some of the discussion board moderators. The context differed, but all of the posters on Cat’s watch list were using the same phrase, which was being picked up and used by others through the consensus.
Over and over again: they haven’t got the guts.
Cat had a bad feeling about this.

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