Reina continues to evolve, startling all of us. And, as Roland alluded to in Part II, Henge and her children are not exactly demi-human. I’d long suspected that about Aurelia, who, off-screen, has led an army from old Virginia to the Northern Alliance (Maine-New Hampshire). That young woman, niece of the Empress, bears watching.
I had much to do this morning in meatspace and pan fried a steak and mushrooms for lunch, washing it down with gin. Rather than recording audio today (I am a terrible person) I think to write a little more. Kira’s change of status – demi-human – is, I think, working on Laszlo’s unconscious mind in several ways, and I want to see that reel.
The rest of his watch was mostly spent finishing Reina’s report about Kira. Every now and again the ship’s sensors would note something odd which demanded his brief attention; no ship from Earth had ever been at their velocity before and Nikky was quite correct: t-boning a rock at their velocity would be very uncomfortable.
“Does she have lines, like us?” he abruptly asked the android three hours later. “Can she see into the Void?”
“No. The princess is different. Most of her changes, as you have read, are passive: she can take in information which humans cannot; witness her being able to hear the motor,” Reina explained. “Again, to contradict my full self, it was Aqua who proposed these modifications. I initially opposed them but was required… was I required? I cannot now recall. Required to put them to the Tsar. And Tsarina, when she was still pregnant with Kira.”
She turned her head to look at him.
“I may have been sad. I do not remember.” She looked back to the screens. “Other questions?”
“Can she have children?” he said, right to the point.
“Yes.” The Machine’s eyes came back and almost showed an emotion but he could not discern which one. “If you did quicken her it would be the first pairing of true demi-humans.”
“No,” he disagreed, “my Uncle Gary and his wife Henge –”
“Henge is not demi-human. She is unique. And as such,” Reina continued, talkative, “that means to some degree so are their children. Rest assured we watch Aurelia very closely. Oh. I don’t think I should have told you that, either.”
Her head rotated back to the screens and her eyes closed.
“Did you plan all this or are you improvising?” he tried one last question.
“You know full well our kind does not plan, Prince.” Her eyes stayed shut. “But neither is this improvisation.”
An hour passed. That, Laszlo thought, seemed to be that. It was only moments before his watch ended and there were some sounds of awakening from the deck overhead that she spoke once more.
“The princess has sustained a great shock. She does not need another about the man she is fond of and her brother. Behave yourselves. Please.”
Over a sparse breakfast which included grits – Nikita liked it, Kira spat it out, and Anastasia pretended to tolerate it – Laszlo announced that after their turnover in ninety minutes he would pass the conn to Spacer Romanov while he finally got some sleep. As he hoped, that got a little flicker of happiness in her otherwise sad eyes. Mother always told us “doin’s better than thinkin’.” In a day the Red Planet would be visible out the windows and they would need precise instruction from Control, well, Aqua, as to what they should do on approach.
Finishing his meal first and standing, Les ordered Kira to use the next hour to become more familiar with Lionheart. She promised she would. He returned to the command deck and buckled himself into his chair.
“It’s just titular, of course,” he said to Reina. “If there is an emergent situation you have the knowledge and reflexes to act and I expect you to.”
“Of course, Prince. I would never let harm come to all of you.”
“This after threatening to space Nikky and me?” Before she could respond he toggled the ship-wide speakers. “Attention all crew: free fall in sixty seconds. Repeat: free fall in sixty seconds.”
That would have everyone above scrambling to make sure nothing sharp or breakable was loose. Another disadvantage of the T4’s design for speed is the immobility of the motor. Most were mounted inside a sphere allowing direction of thrust in any direction. This motor could only manage twenty steradians.
There was a final horn and Laszlo felt himself come out of his chair just a little. With his mind the ship tipped end-for-end, the reactor now pointing at Mars.
“Please verify new course, Reina,” he asked.
“Verified,” she said instantly. He flipped the intercom switch again.
“Astrogator Romanov! Please verify deceleration course!” he called.
“Standby” Kira called right back, her voice even better. They waited only a minute. “Verified!”
Weight returned. He was pleased to hear no crashes or screams from the upper deck. Two thunks had Kira slid down to the command deck.
“I relieve you,” she said formally.
Laszlo stood and walked until just next her and leaned down.
“If the PM starts talking shit, wake me and we’ll toss this toaster out!” Rewarded with a giggle, he climbed one level and dropped into his bunk, shutting off his mind immediately.