A bit more into the characters onboard Lionheart: girls in their underwear and men kissing. I had no idea I was such a degenerate author. As I sus’d from the beginning of this writing project, if I look away for just a moment, Reina will take over the entire story.
In this and what y’all will see later, it is interesting to me that while of the same class (a concept hard for most Heritage Americans) the royals have things they take for granted and things which, being from opposite sides of the Earth, are a complete puzzle to one another.
Additionally, I introduce, still offstage, a new character: Aqua. A Machine from tribe Arpeggio and apparently personally interested in the Martian terraforming project. Why is he?
“Bye!” Kira suddenly called from her place, setting her tablet down and looking up at the others with her silly grin. “Liz is sooo cool! Maybe you can drop me off on our way back!”
“No!” came a shout from two decks below. They all laughed.
“If it’s allowed, Captain Hartmann,” she smiled on, “may I change out of this suit? It’s hot.”
“Anything you wear is hot, little spacer,” Les teased but was concerned. “But it shouldn’t be: skinsuit material is such – ”
“Is made a little differently in Russia than the imperium, I’d guess,” her brother said. “We’re a rougher people and not all-in on comfort.”
“Okay. And yes, Kirry, you may change.”
“Yeah!” she walked to the opening and didn’t bother with the latter, dropping straight down.
“Good way to break an ankle,” Les grumbled. “I may forbid that…”
“Hah. Good luck forbidding my baby sister anything, Les,” Annie said, wiping out her cup and setting it securely aside. “I am going to change, too. No peeking, captain!”
Older and heavier, the princess still knew how to get around a ship: she hooked her ankles on the ladder and dropped out of sight.
The two young men were alone. If such was possible with Reina on board. With various undressing and dressing sounds from below, Nikita walked quickly to Laszlo who took him into his arms before kissing his mouth.
“I’ll stand watch with you when those two are asleep,” the younger man whispered once his mouth was free.
“’Standing,’ indeed!” Les smiled. “I’ll order Reina outside on the hull to polish the windows or something. Speaking of which… I should check on the bridge. This is still something of a prototype.”
“Of course, Captain,” Nikky said, letting go of him only little by little. Les walked to the opening on the floor and called down to ask if they were decent. Two yeses came back up, so down he went. As they were in their underwear – and Kira only in panties – he dropped quickly in the bridge.
“Status?” he asked. A trademark “Hartmann-ism.”
“All nominal,” Reina replied. “Before training the dish onto Earth, I turned it ahead and sent a burst transmission to Martian Control, confirming our launch and probable arrival.”
Laszlo knew from reports and pictures that Martian Control, usually just called Control, was a large space station in orbit around the once-red planet. It housed nearly three hundred scientists, engineers, techs… and one more.
“Do you think Aqua will allow us to land?” He was genuinely curious.
“He will tell us when he wants too,” was her honest reply.
Of the five machines coded in Milan, more than a generation ago, only two of tribe Arpeggio had any dealings with humans. The first had been Ventidio, who for reasons passing all understanding took a liking to his mother, then a little girl of fourteen, teaching her first how to personally fight, then tactics then strategy and logistics. He was, in way, the godfather of the imperium.
No one had interaction with the other, Aqua, until the Martian terraforming project was proposed by the Japanese Empress. Even when all the work was still earthside, people on the project would begin to receive messages from an unknown person and source. Only, the rumor was, at the prompting from tribe Tohsaka did Aqua not only reveal himself, but assume overall control of the project. He noted, correctly, that there was no human mind or committee of them to track and understand what was necessary to change an entire planet.
Without him, this project would have taken hundreds of more years, Laszlo thought. And we demis and humans could have screwed things beyond repair, even then. Not even someone like me could put several ammonia comets and asteroids into a controlled burn and impact onto the Martian surface. And no one had come up with the solution to their being no electromagnetic field until the plans for the planet-lacing nanofibers just showed up one day.
But we know almost nothing about him. Tribe Tohsaka vouches for him and Reina seems to have some grudging respect… There are what? Three people who have been allowed into his construct. Those reports are very classified, but Liz did allow once that from what she stole, Aqua looked like a Mediterranean businessman and the land around him some uninhabited city built like Palermo or Taranto.
“If humans trust us to lead them,” he voiced his next thought to Reina, “then I see no contradiction in us allowing your kind to lead us into the future.”
She gave him a curious look.
“Thank you, Prince.”
At that, Princess Kira dropped out of the hole above his right.
“New ship’s rule!” he called. “When under acceleration this ship’s ladders will be used! I do not want the complication of your broken ankle if we have to evacuate! Clear?”
At first a little taken aback by his sudden change in attitude, the coverall-clad girl jerked to attention and saluted in the hand-next-to-the-face style which had been adopted for the close quarters of the Russian space navy.
“Sir!” Her hand dropped as her irrepressible smile came back. “Can you give me a tour of engineering now?”
“Fine,” he muttered, rolling his eyes. “You have to go up and get your hot suit back on, though.”
“Because unlike you resource-rich Russians, those spaces on this ship are in vacuum. If you look closely over my shoulder, Kira, you’ll note that machines don’t need air,” he explained.
“Fine!” she muttered right back. Deciding to change right there, she unzipped her coveralls and stepped out of them wearing only the panties he’d seen earlier before scrambling up the ladder.
“Just boyish enough to be cute,” he observed.
“Don’t be disgusting,” Reina corrected.