We learn a little more about the Russian imperial children – adult children – who will be on this Martian Holiday. There’s already drama from the youngest but they seem to be getting on. They’d better: trapped in a tin can for a week.
I’ve got a lot on my plate again for the second half of the summer, more of this story, finishing recording and editing of “Foes & Rivals,” as well as my podcasts. Going to my DayJob is now just an annoyance.
“Details, if you please, cousin!” Kira said, again close enough to just touch him. “May I be astrogator for the mission?”
“I appoint you Astrogator for the shakedown cruise of Lionheart,” Laszlo tried to intone in a serious voice. “It is your responsibility to second check and certify all courses before they are executed.”
“Yeee!” She rolled her eyes up into her head and weaved so much he was putting a hand out to steady her before she turned away and walked to where the platters of food were. With her away, Les turned his attention to her older sister.
“Princess Anastasia,” he said with a bow, taking and lightly kissing the hand she offered. “You are as beautiful as ever.”
“I sit in the lab in front of a computer too much and have gained two kilos in four months,” she contradicted him. “I’m haunted I’ll end up fat like my mother’s sister.”
Laszlo’s improved neurosystem took her all in. Only an inch shorter than he was, her bones indeed spoke to her Slavic side and not the Germanic admixture from over the centuries. Traditional brown Romanov hair clipped short in the front and sides but long, halfway down her back. The gold threads in her informal dress the color of unripened wheat seemed to make her hazel eyes brighter. Her mouth was just a little too broad, but did smile easily.
“So the PM here,” he tossed his head left to where Reina had decided to stand alone, “says you are trying to gengineer people like me. I can think of a much more fun way to make demi-humans, Princess!”
“Annie, please, Laszlo. And I can probably milk my Cas-Thirty Nine for DNA longer than I could you!” her wide mouth laughed.
“I’d like to rise to that occasion sometime!” He lightly touched her right elbow. “Let’s see what’s to eat. I’m afraid things on my ship will be a huge disappointment to those used to luxury such as this.”
“So long as there are pork rinds and your whiskey, I could while away six months up there,” Nikita said. His plate had two pieces of bread with caviar scraped across the top. He had a small glass of wine next to him on the table and saw his friend’s look of despair. “And fret not, oh-great demi-human! There’s water in the carafe, just there. I know what that vodka must have cost you.”
“Whot’s that?” Kira asked up around the sardines she pushed into her mouth with a silver fork. Les recalled his mother’s own admittance of the number of times her parents had swatted her head for talking with food in her mouth.
“As I’m sure your sister and the PM know,” he explained, “a little alcohol produces mild euphoria in humans. For us, it immediately interferes with our lines making thinking, seeing the Void, and communicating difficult. We all hate it but will drink when we must.”
The girl still looked confused. But her boyish look of furrowing her brows while chewing her fish made her look almost cute. She only winced when Nikky put his opened fingers onto her head and squeezed tightly.
“Ooooo!” she cried.
“Never forget, little sister, that our royal cousins from the other side of the world are not simple humans such as us,” he explained. “Their heads are like transceivers, taking and sending massive amounts of data all the time.”
“Ev… even right now?” she asked.
“Of course,” Les replied. He wondered why the girl was suddenly holding back tears.
“So your sister, Liz, sorry, Princess Elizabeth… that’s why she’s so smart? That’s why she’s on the Moon?” Her jaw began to quiver. “So… me… I’ll never…”
Laszlo quickly set down his little plate with some boar meat, strode to her, and took her into his arms.
“Liz is a scientist and engineer. She could never have joined the space navy at seventeen,” he whispered fiercely into Kira’s ear. “Much less advance in rank as fast as you have; you’ll understand if you meet her again. She’s… rather focused on her work.”
He pushed back but held the girl’s shoulders.
“She really doesn’t even make a good Crown Princess.” He forced a smile and tried to not feel like a heel, knowing Nikita – and Reina – were watching him. “With your service, I might just be addressing you as Tsarina someday.”
He watched her swallow the lump in her throat and give a weak smile.
“That’s… that’s right!” She shook his hands off. “So you just behave yourself, demi-Prince!”
After a tiny moment, four of the five smiled and resumed their light dinner. No one bothered to sit down.