Rather than behaving myself and getting into the basement for raw audio, I wanted to continue to jot down what I had seen while driving Daughter #1 back those 1944 miles last weekend. I think I’ll be caught up tomorrow. With the ship on the move we are now in what I call the Michael Crichton phase of the story: taking a disparate group of people and locking them in until the plot shows up.
Something like Reina tossing my main character out of an airlock for “deviant behavior”…
With the three Russian royals just forward stowing what little gear they had, Laszlo made some manual checks while keeping an eye on his co-pilot to his left. Reina was perfectly still as she no doubt scoured all information about the T4 into her mind. She just wore a dark blue flight suit where the humans had their skinsuits on. For the cameras before they boarded, when the four made short speeches about cooperation, the robot had surreptitiously entered the ship.
“Did not want any personal publicity, PM?” he asked after one more check.
“No. Few even know of this forms existence. And, for this mission, you may use my name, Prince.”
“Thank you, Reina. Please check my course and forward it to our astrogator for certification,” he tried to be gracious.
“Forwarded,” she announced with no hesitation. “That initial arc puzzled me until I concluded you wanted to briefly be in signal distance of the moon. For your sister?”
“I thought it would give Kira a little thrill.”
“Thank you… Laszlo.” He knew that must be killing her. “I often see those three as much my children as the Tsar’s.”
“Which is why,” now her tone was grating and hostile, “I do not approve of your deviant behavior with Nikita!”
From two decks forward came a girlish cry of “Course approved!” Les used that as cover to avoid an argument.
“Lifting now,” he called to the room and the microphone. A thousand feet above the airport, the ship rotated to point its nose skyward. Laszlo left the atmosphere and three gees before settling back to one. He unmasked the observation windows and deployed the radio dish on its boom, pointed right now at the moon.
I know you have no wings to waggle, Brother, but thank you for taking time to swing by, his sister Elizabeth said to his mind.
It seemed the polite thing to do, Liz. Here’s a précis of our mission. Let me know if you’ve questions or comments. Oh, and can I trouble you to say ‘hi’ to Princess Kira? I was unaware that she idolizes you.
Does she? Her laughter echoed down his spine. And it’s no trouble at all! And good luck on your real mission.
The squeal from two decks – now above – meant that Kirry’s tablet was live with a visitor. Les unbuckled and stood.
“Once their conversation is over,” Reina said, “I shall reorient the dish to Earth. I need to stay in touch with myself as long as possible.”
“Understood. Keep me informed. The bridge is yours,” he said, tossing a legionary salute before climbing the ships ladder to the next deck. No one was there, so he continued to the top. Kira was just to the left talking quickly to her tablet. Anastasia was carefully sniffing at some of the bottles in the fridge and Nikita had his eyes out the square meter viewport, a waning crescent moon just visible.
“I know there are some things in space which are beautiful,” he said, coming close behind the Russian prince, “but there are also hours of nothing.”
“Sometimes,” Nikky said very low, “the most beautiful things are right in front of us.”
“Disgusting!” Annie suddenly called. The two men turned, surprised she –
“This isn’t tea!” she yelled, holding up the plastic bottle. “It’s bitter sugar water!”
“That is sweet tea from the imperium,” Les laughed, walking over, “a tradition of the Old American South going back hundreds of years. The empress hates it, too. Here: this is unsweetened and there’s some butter just in this tube. That is the Russian way, is it not?”
“I… I’m surprised you knew that, Les,” she said but sniffed at the other bottle just in case. “Didn’t know you’d been in our land long enough to pick up little details such as that.”
“My mother again,” he tried not to sigh. “She seems to accumulate idiosyncrasies.”
“I didn’t think she had ever visited,” Annie noted, squeezing some butter into a cup before adding tea. She looked around for a spoon.
“She’s not, physically,” Les explained. “Unless it has been at the head of an army, she’s only been to Texas, Mexico, and Spain. I don’t think she likes travel.”
“Didn’t know that last one,” Nikky noted, also coming over to see what might be in the fridge. “Can’t be a secret mission of you just mentioned it, so maybe I just missed it?”
“It was before you were born, so yes,” his friend nodded. “It was just a short visit with the Pope in Madrid; she wanted her status as empress sanctioned by the Church.”
“Ah. Just like when the Primate of Moscow anointed mom and dad at their coronation!” Annie finally sipped her tea and didn’t grimace too badly.