August! I swear yesterday was March. I’ve written ahead a bit and hope to keep these MS sketches updates coming. As it is, what remains of my family is off on another vacation in northern Louisiana so I shall devote my time off to try to complete the raw audio for “Foes and Rivals.” Speaking of which, I got my first customer review of “Friend and Ally.” I was, honestly, expecting at best three stars; after all, I am not a professional voice actor and my audio editing skills are that of a novice. So this was a surprise!
Back to the royals in space: not wanting to give the book an ADULT rating, I gloss over Laszlo’s and Nikita’s “moment.” Of more interest, as Les sees, is that now light-minutes away from Earth, android-Reina breaks contact with her greater self. But, as machines think so much faster than humans, her portable form is already… changing. I really wonder what shall become of her.
When he awoke, Laszlo was alone in the forward compartment. Passing through the sleeping quarters his senses told him all three were in fact asleep. He continued down.
“Status?” he asked just as before.
“All nominal. Personally, the lag in contact with myself has become a bother so the communications boom and dish are stowed,” Reina said.
As a boy Laszlo had sat upon the great lap of the android of his mother’s “godmother,” Fausta, a machine of tribe Tohsaka, and listened to the stories of when she had been away from signal so long in that physical form that, when it was reacquired, her greater self simply absorbed the emergent personality of the android. He had wondered if that wasn’t a kind of murder but the tall machine in her field gray fatigues had just shaken her large dark brown braid in laughter while fixing him with her crystalline search array in place of eyes. “We are very different, young human!” she had said to him.
“So you will just reintegrate yourself later?” he asked.
“Don’t see this form here going off like Helena?” Laszlo forced himself to not smile.
“Not at all funny, human.”
Now he laughed. It had been Reina who had made a machine copy of his mother during her Fort Benning campaign. That copy achieved self-awareness and freedom and immediately stole the plans for reactionless motors from the Russians, making Faustina’s imperium one of the world’s Great Powers. It was perhaps the greatest self-own of any machine in history.
In his tee-shirt, briefs, and socks, Nikita slid down the ship’s ladder. Les stood quickly.
“Your sisters?” he asked.
“Very asleep,” the Russian prince responded walking into the imperium’s prince’s arms and kissing his mouth. “God but I love you, Les.”
“I should evacuate the air from this ship and start over,” Reina observed while grinding what passed for her teeth.
Later the two young men rested their backs against the interior wall of the ship. The android had watched the entire time and said no more.
“You recorded that,” Laszlo guessed.
“Of course. Both the Tsar and Empress will be very interested in the video someday,” Reina replied.
“Planning on blackmailing us, Prime Minister?” Nikita asked.
“Not now.” She moved to look blankly at the screen thick with data before her. She already knew all of it. “The report you wanted is ready, Prince Laszlo.”
“What’s that?” Nikky asked putting back on what little he had come down with.
“Personnel issues,” Les said, hating the Machine for forcing him to lie to his lover. I’ll tell him once I know Kira broaches the subject with her siblings. He rested his hand on Nikky’s shoulder. Have a good night.”
“Without you? Won’t be the same but I’ll try. Don’t crash us into an asteroid, Les!”
The prince went silently up the ladder to avoid waking his sisters.
“Rather than going up, would you please make some coffee at the little samovar, just there by the outer hatch,” Les directed his second while beginning. He was just through the very short Executive Summary when she set a mug next to his left hand.
“Cybernetic implants,” he whispered, not believing it, “into her brain. And, what was this term? ‘Nanites’ in her bloodstream. I’m surprised she didn’t notice the scarring from the former and hasn’t developed a dozen cancers from the latter.”
“If she shaved her hair off she might notice the scars,” Reina explained, watching his mug shake a little in his hand. “The nanotechs in the rest of her were a derivative of what Aqua is using on Mars. Ask him for details. It may be…”
She trailed off. Unusual for her.
“Yes?” he asked.
“I… do not think my full self wanted to tell you, but I am here now. It may be she would be happier on Mars than Earth. Her blood could sing to the land, sea, and sky.”
“That was poetic, Reina. Are you broken? Should you update yourself?”
“No.” A pause. “Not yet.”
Laszlo’s only real experience with androids had been with Fausta’s, who would always come to visit his mother and uncle over the years. But even then, she was always in signal. To watch this machine develop its own personality in less than twenty-four hours was both fascinating and disturbing.