My voice finally seemed able to start recording again. I spent time last evening reviewing the opening chapters of “Foes and Rivals,” realizing I need to create voice for old Mrs. Brunelli, John’s mother and now Nichole 5’s friend. An old woman. Yeah, sure… I’ve got that ready right here…
That, coupled with today’s wonderful spring weather, had me behave badly and go out onto my deck with the laptop rather than down into the basement. My personal fail. To my credit, I guess, is that while I’m not supposed to be writing anything in this time of audiobooks, I put down 3500 words in the last six hours. And, I had so much fun doing it! There’s more of Prince Edward and Livia below the fold. Later, there is a confrontation largely between Empress Faustina and Prime Minister Reina (of Russia), with Ed playing a bit part as something of a sacrifice. That surprised me!
Forming on another chapter, Edward and his little group makes their way to Galveston and Captain Rupert/Princess Ryland. I’ve just seen their meeting. I had thought her divorced. I was wrong. I… I think it explains a little about Liv, in retrospect. Speaking of whom…
Back on the deck after dinner – a stew of beefalo, with the meat from Oklahoma Province – Edward was content to fall into a digestive stupor as the sun began to set opposite the way the deck faced.
“In pre-industrial times,” he said softly, “excavations showed human settlements built up on the west. Perhaps to watch the sunset. Your house, and that of my mother’s parents, has the desk facing the sunrise. Contrarians?”
Arpad had clearly never considered that and just shrugged, older amongst both sides of his extended family to never chalk something up to a coincidence.
“Your wife was wrong to call Livia an autist,” he went on, flitting from subject to subject as his kind did, often leaving humans confused in his wake. “I see she was tested and negative. An IQ of one-forty for a girl is an outlier, though.”
“I won’t bother mentioning that in the Republic of Texas, all personal data, including medical data, is owned by the source. I could have you arrested, Prince,” Arpad said with a serious voice, his eyes dancing over the rim of his glass as he took a drink.
“I’m aware,” Edward smiled, taking a sip of his grape juice from their winery. “And I think it worth it. I find your daughter and granddaughter… interesting.”
“While rather open-minded about things after the Breakup, what y’all,” his lingering Hungarian accent did not quite manage that word, “now call the Change, I’ll not have you servicing two generations of my offspring at once!”
“I have told you, Uncle,” he set his glass down and faced his host, to make his point, “Ryland was a little boy’s infatuation. She put up with me when it was just me. When I badgered some of the machines to take her to their construct without permission… well…”
Edward let his hand brush his left cheek.
“I deserved more than a slap. But then, I don’t think I deserved what my mother did to me, either.”
From his wife Lily through her best friend Ai, Arpad had heard rumors. He changed the subject. A little.
“So. You are finished stirring the pot in Austin and want to move onto our Naval Academy to steal Captain Rupert from us?” he asked, nearly done with his whiskey.
“She is a princess in the imperium and will be an admiral if she accepts my, our, offer. The captain has a genius for organization and like Texas toilet paper,” he grinned at his great uncle, “doesn’t take shit off anyone!”
“This can’t be good,” Livia said, padding silently out onto the deck in her bare feet. She had also removed her gray leggings and Edward’s eyes, beginning at her ankles, tracked up and up to…
“Stop being pervy, Cousin Ed,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone. There was a decanter of wine on the table before them and she poured herself about five ounces into a rock crystal glass, seating herself opposite her grandfather and their guest. She took a sip and grimaced.
“This one is too sweet, grandfather,” she said, but still taking another sip. “Am I to marry my cousin? Is that why he is here?”
While Arpad froze, Edward yet again suppressed a smile: for a human, her thoughts were as dangerous and chaotic as someone like him. The hundreds of mosaic pieces of possible futures shifted in his mind.
“No,” he said, picking his glass back up. “I’m off to see your mother, next.”
“Thppptb!” she jerked her head right quickly so the wine splattered onto the deck and not the two men. From inside they heard Lily call ‘what was that!’
“For a job in my country,” he continued before she accused him just as her grandfather did. “That is my primary objective in Texas. The secondary I already accomplished today. The Empress wants me for other work, in parallel, but that’s not germaine. Right here and now, I am at peace and would like to enjoy that. It… it is not something the children of our mother much get to experience.”
Lily had just come outside at that and walked quickly to her guest, putting her arms about him and kissing the top of his head.
“You will always be welcome here. And,” her eyes almost twinkled, for a human, “you will be perfectly safe. From anyone.”
Edward was not entire sure how much his great aunt could rely upon tribe Tohsaka to keep his mother and family, and potentially tribe Mendro, at bay, but he was not going to be churlish.
“Thank you, Aunt Lily,” he replied softly, looking up at her. “I have no single place I call home – I don’t think any of my siblings do – but I would like to call this one of them.”
“Right.” Opposite them, Livia stood, making a brushing motion at her skirt. “And I’m back to my flat. Thank y’all both for dinner – ”
“I’d like to see you to your home,” Edward said, also standing. Then he smiled. “After all, given your trouble finding this old one, you might not make it back.”
She strode quickly back into the house, almost immediately running into the dining table, and they heard her slipping into her shoes. Seeing nothing but Arpad’s and Lily’s grins in the twilight, he ran after her. She had just opened her car door when he opened the opposite.
“I don’t recall inviting you!” she yelled.
“You didn’t. I invited myself.”
“You’ve got your own car!”
“My aide gets gassy after a meat-heavy meal. Do you, Liv?”
Teeth on teeth again as she sat into the driver’s seat and slammed the door as hard as she could. Edward eased in next to her. The car’s CNG motor purred to life.
“I… I don’t get lost all the time!” she said hotly.
“Good. I won’t pull your travel data and contradict you. I trust you, cousin,” he spoke while looking straight ahead. The fact that she first lurched left, then quickly corrected right, when they were back to the road, made him feel a liar.
Even with the GPS screen right there, he kept his mouth very shut as she slowed at each intersection, looking at the LCD then jerking her head and eyes about the dark. She really has no sense of direction. For someone triply-trained such as he, it was not something he could even begin to understand.
Finally back onto the highway east to Austin, he felt it safe to talk.
“May I see what you do at your job, Liv?” he asked.
“If you want to know, then talk, freak cousin!” she snarked back, staring intently at the street signs.
“Yes. My mistake and I apologize.”
They were now in the city proper and she paused at a green light.
“I… I’m good at metadata,” she began, almost going the wrong way down a one-way street. “The Mexicans and Canadians have enough for me to see… I turn raw data to graphs; I turn recorded images to high-speed footage. I… I see things others don’t seem to.”
“Edward.” She added, finally turning onto her apartment’s street, some blocks north of the capitol, in what had once been the University District.
“That is a great gift. To see beyond,” he agreed as she almost scalped the car next to them on his side as she parked. There was no way for him to get out.
“That’s not how you used to talk. It was all ‘demi-human’ this and ‘demi-human’ that,” Livia said, opening her door and stepping out. “Hey! What are you…!”
“You left me no way out… just move, Liv! There, thank you.” He stood next to her. MacDougal waited with their car on the street. “I was young and stupid and arrogant. It’s hard not to be, what we are. But I’m older now. Access to the Void, an enhanced neurosystem, and puberty in a male makes you think you’re a god. Trying to see all the myriad ways when you’re twenty makes me give thanks that God forgives a little shit like me!”
He was happy she laughed at that.
“So,” she suddenly rotated ninety degrees away from him and raised her right hand to brush through one of her twin tails, “do you want to come up?”
Her directness surprised him. He advanced.
“Yes, Liv, I do,” he said, putting his right hand firmly on her little waist. “But now is not the time.”
A crow cawed angrily in the darkness.
“I didn’t think… people like you let opportunities such as this slip?” he barely heard from her.
“Ah! You are mistaken!” he moved closer to nuzzle the side of her head with his. “You are a genius at metadata. Would you like to know mine?”
“After all,” now with his other hand on her opposite hip, he moved her in front of him, “to like someone is to want to know more about them, right?”
“Cr… cribbing lines from my grandmother’s friend?” she barely voiced.
His answer was to take her into his arms. Only when his car’s horn honked did he check the time and move away from Livia Rupert without a word. He had work tomorrow to prepare for. Edward walked the short distance to the car loaned to him and got in.
“Never thought I’d see you fall in love, Prince,” MacDougal snorted.