Was able to recover enough of my strength and mental capacity to resume writing yesterday. I don’t see any need to chronicle the rest of their deceleration to Mars, so the end of this segment will be a chapter break and leap head of more than a day. Many, many interesting revelations coming. Typically for me, some good, some… well…
I’ll be recording my next podcast on Wednesday. Anyone have any questions or topic ideas?
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Awake six hours later, he first went up to find the prince and princess both looking at screens. The window ports were closed as they pointed away from their destination. Nikita seemed to be looking at Martian information while eating some pork rinds and sipping at something which could either have been tea or bourbon. Anastasia’s screen was filled with organic chemistry, so perhaps something to do with her job?
“This is supposed to be something of a vacation, Annie,” Les said, opening the fridge and finding a bulb of peach juice.
“A researcher’s work never ends. I’m sure Liz could tell you that!” she smiled back.
“She has,” he admitted. “She’s the smartest organic I know. If Mother ever tried primogeniture, Liz would laugh at her. Fortunately they both know it.”
“Leaving you next in line?” Nikky asked, looking up.
“It is entirely the empress’ decision,” Les clarified. “I’m sure she updates her will day-by-day depending on her moods and her children’s actions.”
That seemed to engage Annie’s interest.
“Do you want to want to succeed her, Les?” she asked.
“I would not mind being emperor,” he admitted, “even if ruling in peacetime means nothing more than infinity paperwork!”
The other two laughed.
“The only war on the horizon might be with the Canadians if they get stupid.” He saw no reason to enlighten them as to what his little brother was doing in that regard. “There have, after all, been some, ah, troubles between you and them.”
“Those were patrols,” Nikita said with an edge to his voice. “Patrols into unregulated areas suddenly under fire from those socialist mongrels. It’s why we followed up with a battalion to bloody their noses after, to make sure they kept their place!”
Laszlo knew the facts of the two actions but this was the first time he’d heard such high level politics. How much of this is true and how much typical Russian nationalism? He finished his juice and tossed the bulb into a waste port.
“I’m back to the bridge to check on your sister,” he said, making for the ladder. “Don’t study too hard, y’all!”
Back on the command deck, he relieved Kira who seemed only a little sad and a little tired.
“Anything I should know?” he asked as she stood.
Her answer was a take a few steps and rest her head onto his chest.
“Nothing about the voyage,” she turned her head to speak clearly. “But Reina did tell me a little more about what I am. And what I can do.”
She looked up to his impossibly blue eyes.
“I can mostly control my hearing now,” Kira said, scrutinizing his eyes. “Can we finish our tour sometime?”
With a glance to his second, who barely nodded, he smiled.
“No time like the present, Kirry! Let’s get our suits!”
Showing no distress as they came up to and passed the motor this time, Laszlo took them down two more decks to the solid bulkhead beyond which was the reactor.
“This is as far as we go,” he announced.
“Why?” she asked. “It’s not as if this type of core technology is a secret.”
She suddenly turned about and peered up into his helmet’s face screen.
“Or have you people improved the reactor, too?”
“No,” he replied with a smile to her. “It is just that there is no reason to take a hum- to take a demi-human female breeder into a potential contamination zone.”
“Oh.” Her helmeted head fell to the shielded steel under her suit’s boots. “Yeah. I guess I’m not human. Never was.”
He put his arm around her shoulders.
“I loved my human father and love my human brothers and sister,” he began, “and work to protect all humans in our imperium. Human or otherwise, you have been my friend for years, Kira, and I shall always treasure you.”
“Just a friend, Les?” she asked, tilting her head back up.
“So it would seem. Your Prime Minister,” he pointed up with his free hand, “has categorically said that Russians can only marry Russians.”
“That,” she said with some heat, “is her policy! And it is fit only for humans and commoners! I am neither!”
“And more importantly,” she continued, getting louder, “did you just propose to me, Les!”
“It is,” he began slowly, turning to the nearby ladder, “a centuries-old tradition that a ship’s captain has broad legal powers.”
“What does that mean? And answer the question!”
His reply was to gesture at the side of his helmet that his comm system was not working.
“You lying son of a bitch!” she yelled again, following him up and knowing they could not talk about this in front of Reina or her family.
Yes, he thought, hearing her. I am.
Back onto the bridge and stripping out of their skinsuits, he could tell the princess was seething. Even so, Kira stepped up to him and pressed her naked breasts to his tee shirt while gently grabbing at his crotch with her right hand.
“I’m expecting an answer, Prince Laszlo!” She tossed her helmet through the hole to the deck above and followed it.
“Shall I take the time to reconnect with Earth to have the palace prepare for a wedding?” Reina asked in a dead tone.
Non-denial denial. Kah, kah!”
Les’ head turned at that: the android Fausta’s bizarre laugh. How much is Reina changing? Should I try to preserve those changes?
“In the meantime, I have initial data from Martian Control,” she continued as if having done nothing out of character. “You should be aware of them. Immediately.”