When Nathan West next visited Elysium, he once again checked his galactic calendar to ensure that his visit did not coincide with the Annual Flower and Produce Show. He was in confident mood.
After his last visit, he was confident that he had removed more than half of their currency. He was also confident that this collection of green-fingered twits and twin-sets, even if they knew what had happened to their economy, would have no idea as to how they would resolve the problem. They would simply know that they were short of money.
In the hold of his ship were more sacks of slug pellets. He also had a few teasmades for sale, on the off-chance than some might have missed out the last time, but his hopes for securing control of the planet lay in the little bundles of Toy Town pounds and Imperial Credit Notes that lay in the ship's strong box.
There was a gathering of Little Elysium's great and good collected to greet Mr West as he, backed as ever by his two impersonal bodyguards, stalked the short way towards them, the cape of his hooded cloak swirling about him like a swirling cloak. He noticed some his watchers cast nervous glances between them which, he decided, was a good sign.
"Greetings, Harold Sodbuster and the good people of Elysium."
"Good morning, Mr West, and welcome once again to Little Elysium-on-the-Planet."
"I bring more slug pellets and more teasmades," declared West grandly.
"Ah, well, now then, Mr West, I have to say that I am afraid that you have had a bit of a wasted journey. We don't want to buy any more slug pellets."
"No more slug pellets?" mused Nathan West easily. He nodded with evident understanding.
"No, you see, one of girls, Lucy Greenwood, her that lives at number 6 with that boyfriend of hers, always rushing about on that velocipede of theirs. Well, apparently, Lucy is a very knowledgeable herbalist, and all that rushing about was to discover what suitable herbs there were on this planet and what they all did, and, well, to cut a long story short... she's come up with a very good natural slug repellent."
"I see," rumbled West, testily. "And teasmades?"
"No, no more teasmades either, Mr West. You see, you'll only accept money for them, won't you, rather than payment in kind?"
"I have no use for onions or petunias."
"Well, to tell you the truth... I'm not sure I should, but I'm sure you'll understand... Well, we're running rather short of actual money at the moment."
Ahhh, thought West with internal satisfaction, now we come to it!
"... we could give you a cheque," continued Mr Sodbuster, "but then you don't have an account with the Bank of Elysium. Mind you, I'm sure Derek would be happy to open one for you, you being such a trusted business partner."
Alarm bells started ringing in West's brain, but he remained outwardly calm.
"Bank of Elysium?" he asked slowly.
"Yes, we've been very fortunate in having some sound financial advice, from young... oh, he's not here. Yes, it's all soundly based. The bank has an issuing department, which only issues money for the benefit of the public purse, and that is quite separate from its saving and borrowing side."
Remaining outwardly calm, West screamed internally. They know the secret of the Source!
"Most impressive," he cooed smoothly.
He allowed time to gaze as these yokels, with their happy contented faces. He saw no wit of ambition within them, no cunning, no deviousness, no lust for ultimate power, and yet they knew the secret. Perhaps, he thought, they did not know that they knew.
There are, of course, things that one knows that one knows, things that one knows that one does not know and things that one does not know that one does not know, but here, before him now were a group of people whom, it would seem, did not know what they knew.
"So, I'm very sorry, Mr West, for your wasted journey, but would you like to come and have a nice cup of tea anyway?"
West accepted the offer of a nice cup of tea. He also accepted the offer of a stroll around the village with Harold Sodbuster, who proudly showed off the new Bank of Elysium, and the new road to the sea. This latter project had been built by the Valhades Demons, explained Harold, as somewhere to go on their velocipedes on those days in the summer when the Bank of Elysium was closed.
Nathan West allowed Sodbuster to witter on about all the new things that the Bank of Elysium was now paying for whilst he wracked his brains for a solution. He eventually decided that he would again accept the offer of an overnight stay.
In the wee small hours, he slipped out of the Sodbusters' house and made his way to the bank. He opened the locked door with ease and then opened the locked cupboard. There was the same small strong box as before, but he was not interested in that. His concern was for the ledgers.
There was the one he had seen before and a new one. He opened this new one and with the aid of a powerful electric torch scanned its pages, which were all set out in the neat round hand of Derek Moneypenny.
Hope stirred within him. If these people did not know the significance of what they knew, then maybe the situation was not lost. Yet someone had told them, and who ever it was had to be discovered and eliminated.
Nathan West was not the only cloaked figure abroad that night. As soon as he heard that the galactic financier had agreed to stay the night, Mark Skyspotter had established a close vigil on the bank. He watched as the hooded figure made his way inside the building, and then moved up to it to watch the intruder's activities from the doorway.
In his hand, Mark fingered a short, thick hand-grip with a couple of switches set into the grip. Above this small post was a circular metal disc barely larger in diameter than his spread palm. A number of curious jewel-like components were built into both handle and disc, including the smallest power cell that Mark had ever seen.
The instrument had been formally presented to him by his uncle, on that memorable evening the year before when he had returned from the forest.
"It was your father's. Take good care it," had been Ewen Skyspotter's only words.
Mark watched as the hooded figure took out the bank's ledger and brought it around to place it upon the desk. Then he leaped forward and thrust the hand-grip forward into the intruder's face flicking on the switch as he did so. The torch came on, sending a bright beam of light straight into the man's face. West dropped the ledger and swung his own torch before him. There followed a vigorous tussle as each man tried to blind the other with his beam, to see the face of his intruder, and to deny the other the chance of seeing his own. They were evenly matched, the young man stronger, the older man more experienced.
The powerful beams from their torches flashed through the darkness of the bank office as each tried to secure the advantage over the other. Around the counter they chased and fought, swinging their torches like weapons of close quarter combat.
Experience told and it was Mark's torch that was eventually knocked out of his hand. West had him down on the ground, kneeling upon him, forcing him down with one arm, whilst bringing his torch down with his other to get a good view of his assailant.
"Who are you?!" he barked. "And what do you mean by creeping up on me like this?!"
"You're the one who should be answering the questions!" cried Mark defiantly.
West considered this for a moment.
"No, young man, I think you'll find that the person who is on top, with the other in his power, is the one who asks the questions, and the other one does the answering. That is the standard arrangement. Now, who are you?!"
Mark had nothing to hide.
He felt a twinge in West's arm, a lessening of the grip, but it soon re-tightened.
"Ewen Skyspotter's nephew?"
"Yes. And I know who you are, even with that cloak on. You're Nathan West. I know all about you."
"You've never seen me before!"
"No. But I've heard all about you, about how you trained with the Co-op Mutual, then became obsessed with power and betrayed decent financing to become... to become what you are!"
"It was you, wasn't it?! It was you who revealed to these yokels the secret of the Source?"
"Yes. And now they are beyond your power, Nathan West!"
"I think not, for they do not know what they know. They do not have the depth of understanding of you or I, young Skyspotter. Without a strong understanding to guide them, they could still be overcome."
"I am afraid the ordinary citizen will not like to be told that the banks can and do create money. And they who control the credit of the nation direct the policy of governments and hold in the hollow of their hand the destiny of the people."
"Who said that?"
"I just did. So you see, young Skyspotter, your power to sway the people here is limited by what they themselves are prepared to believe. Not you, of course. You have been well trained in the ways of the Source, young Skyspotter."
"Yes, by one who knew you years ago."
"So I gather, but your understanding is very great, too great for a small planet like Elysium. Would you not like to travel the galaxy, to soar to the limits of your power and knowledge?"
"But you do, young Skyspotter! It is your destiny. You are a young man, and all young men seek power and glory and status. Come with me, Mark Skyspotter and be my aide and apprentice. I will teach you even more of how to use the Source to gain power!"
"Be true to your feelings, Mark."
"I cannot go with you, Nathan West! You... you killed my father!"
"No, Mark, no... I am your father!"