After they'd read, and heard, he continued.
"Further notes on the subject of that visit. This was the same city in which the sparring incident occurred: he sought to secure the benefit to his standing of the interview, and considered good relations with the area more relevant than normal. Particularly, he notes the woman in question as of interest. I request to name her while reading the report."
"This woman was previously known to us as Curator, the founder and proprietor of a library of some note, which contained some of the gathered material on antecedents. She now trades as Gazette, and devised both the idea of the paper of news and the medical benefits to it. She related to him that she thought the existence of a useful and entertaining written work, regularly occurring, would be salutary on encouraging literacy, in a way he thinks would be complementary to direct education. Gazette also expressed hope that it would have benefits toward funneling standing toward those whose deeds are beneficial, not merely memorable. On the basis of her clear talents for novel ideas, he suggests that rather than simply importing the innovation, we may wish to import the innovator, and sounded her out on the feasibility of such."
"I dislike the idea of offering gifts to illustrati, even useful ones."
"You dislike even employing illustrati, sir."
"Is that not the point of this Council?!"
"Councillors! I believe we all are familiar with that debate. Can we please avoid repeating it tonight?"
"So should I not object to this idea?"
"There will be adequate time to debate the merits well before we take action. There is no need for haste, I think we can all agree."
"The primary concession the captain notes Gazette would insist on is broad freedom to publish what she wishes. She notes the ordinary prohibition on bolstering villain's standing as obviously acceptable, and if we committed public funds to joint ventures she expressed being amenable, but her private ventures would not be a propaganda instrument and might even criticize us. This would be the principal drawback of bringing her on rather than creating our own."
"I repeat my objection."
"Noted. Continue the report."
"This was the final element of the report the captain indicated was of immediate interest. Shall we vote on censure?"
"Seconded. Any arguments?"
"Please tally your votes, councilors."
"We have here three votes for, nine against. Censure fails, but shall be raised at intermediate sessions for those now absent to express preferences if desired."
"Next business: Do we have a second for debate over the feasibility plan?"
"Yes." "And third."
"Good. Is the councilor from the trades district willing to speak?"
"I am. I estimate a minimal investigation would need two weeks and take about two hours per day for a team of three to five. For a thorough investigation, a month and possibly as much as two, and a group of five to six. Primarily investigating sourcing paper and how busy the local printers are, with the slowest portions evaluating creating new print shops for the enterprise."
"Do you have a guess at their estimate?"
"Printing presses are expensive. I believe we have about six full presses operating in Chellas, all but one within the capital. I don't know their slack time, but if we had less volume than four full-time presses, I would expect the fifth press to move elsewhere. It's likely we would need to fund a new press within the first six months even in ideal conditions. I can't speak to revenue from sales - did the captain note that?"
"Not in his report - I'll get an estimate within a few days." (Theo didn't like lies, even the polite ones where he pretended the councilor wasn't the same man as the captain. Half-truths were more bearable.)
"Please do. Overall I estimate it would be a substantial undertaking, on the same order of cost as... Well, to compare like with like, schooling for another hundred children per year. Possibly as much as five hundred students, if we need multiple presses and journeymen are scarce."
"Any remarks before we vote on the investigation?"
"Tally your votes, councillors."
"We have seven for, four against, one abstention. Ah, is the captain willing to speak on why he has abstained?"
"I am. I intend not to vote on measures stemming from my report unless the tiebreaker is required. I am sensitive to the significance of our illustrati suggesting matters to the council. My censure excepted, as I drew attention to the matter much more than honesty required and I feel that is adequate concession to principle."
The vocal anti-illustrati councilor sketched a polite nod.
"Any old business...?"