replies."My father. He died." He forced his gaze off the ice and made eye contact. "I gota call this morning. They said it was imperative that I take possession of theestate immediately. I think his old partners are circling the corpse orsomething." That was a mental picture he wanted to hang on to. It kept him fromcompletely regretting his decision to accept the inheritance.. Carpenter pursed his lips and nodded, knowingly. "He had no others, then?"Alex shook his head and let his gaze return to the scotch. "None he registered,anyway.""But he was wealthy, wasn't he?" Miranda's question belied her own knowledge ofthe man. "I mean, you're heading out there now, when you should be launching forthat Nebula. So it must be worth it." She leaned forward and lowered her voice."It is worth it, isn't it?""Miranda.""Don't scold, father." Miranda sat back in her seat, looking petulant. "I was justthinking if his father's estate is worth what I'm betting it is, he could justfund that expedition himself.""I really don't know what he was worth." Alex lied while meeting her gaze."Yes, of course." Miranda's father, at least, understood these things. "I tell youwhat. Miranda and I are going to visit her aunt, at Sirui. We'll be on this shipwhen it makes the round trip back. If you're onboard, and you haven't foundfunding for this exploration of yours, we'll talk. I could do with another taxbreak."Alex looked up, eyebrows creeping up in hopeful surprise. "I might take you up onthat, sir."Carpenter stood, motioning to his daughter. "We'll talk more about the prospectslater." He glanced pointedly at the bottle of scotch. "Come along, Miranda." Whenshe failed to respond, he reached for her arm. "Can't you see this man would liketo be alone?""I'll be along shortly, father." Miranda shot him a look, but leaned closer toAlex, smiling. "We haven't seen each other in years, there's a lot to catch upon."Father and daughter shared a momentary stare that appeared to communicate on alevel Alex could only imagine. He knew if you were close to someone, close enoughto really know someone, you could practically communicate without words. But he'dnever experienced that intimacy himself.Of course, he had nothing to communicate either verbally or otherwise with MirandaCarpenter. Fate, destiny and every other force both real and imagined had placedMiranda right in the center of wealth and position. Her family had known privilegefor generations, and showed no signs of regret. Alex's mother had seen to it hewas raised as close to money as she could manage, being somewhat touched by wealthherself. But most people understood her grasp on the position was tenuous at best.She afforded Alex the opportunities he'd needed to gain scholarships and luckybreaks, and sustained a position high enough to bring her into the proper circleswhere important elbows could be rubbed.But he'd never been particularly friendly with any of them himself. And if morehad known exactly who his father was, aside from the Carpenters and one or twoothers, he knew what little position he'd had would have collapsed years ago.Alex poured another glass of whiskey and watched the new chunks of ice settle intoposition."Do you always drink scotch?" Miranda was on the bed in his small cabin, stillwrapped in the shimmering white sheet. Her idea of catching up had involved verylittle conversation."Only when I'm angry." Alex turned to face her and leaned back against the liquorcabinet."I hope you're not angry with me." She moved her legs until they were underneathher, then flicked some hair from one shoulder.