An Open Secret

At the start of part three of this novel, when Faustina and her sons have finished dinner, it seemed pretty much that everyone knew about Laszlo’s sexual preferences but no one would talk openly about. In a way, that’s how the world and polite society used to work: you might know something untoward about a family member or co-worker, but so long as they weren’t up in your face demanding you worship their failing, society continued to function. It seems that polity has returned in the Changed world. Saying all that to say this: onboard ship, the girls have a laugh at the boys.

There’s also the first close-in images of Mars. The Red planet is rapidly not.

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Eighteen hours later, with Reina at the helm, the humans and demis were forward and looking at the screens.  Pointed in reverse to their vector of travel the windows were useless.  Their first surprise was that the Red Planet wasn’t.  The changes in even the last five years were startling.

“Except for the north pole, almost the entire northern hemisphere is water,” Anastasia breathed.  “The great mountains of the Tharsis Rise – cut by the Valles Marineris – do jut north a little, but… the currents and waves must be huge!”

“And the Argyre and Hellas basins are now great lakes,” Nikita added.  “Elysium Mons looks like a little Australia over there!”

Laszlo felt Kira shudder next to him and looked her a question.

“Just… a feeling,” she said, pointing at the lowlands of Arabia Terra.  “That’s going to be important.”

Her brother and sister took their eyes from the screens and fell silent.  At their breakfast just hours ago, Kira had decided to tell them of her condition.  Nikky had been angry enough to move toward the bridge, presumably to break Reina’s android to bits, but was calmed by his younger sister.  It stunned both of them to immobility when she told them that what had been done to her had been agreed to by their mother and father.  Annie had gently quizzed her on what her demi-human body could do while Laszlo watched his lover’s eyes fill with tears.

“Nikky?” he had asked once the two girls had fallen silent.

“So.” He swallowed hard around a lump in throat.  “She’s one of you people.”

At that the water in his eyes broke free down his cheeks.

The laughter from first Kira then Anastasia was a shock.

“You think this is funny!” Nikita demanded of his sisters.

“You boys!” Annie continued to laugh.  She had just got it under control when she looked to her sister then started again.  She took a deep breath.  “You boys!  You princes think you are so clever!  We know about you two!  We’ve always known!  Sure, it’s against policy and faith, but it would take a pile of stones to not see how much you two love one another!”

“And here,” Les said, letting his eyes move from Annie’s to Nikky’s, “I thought we were oh-so subtle!”

Nikita put out his hand and Laszlo took it with his right.

“You have the best sisters, Nikky,” he said.

“I’m glad you think that as politics and genetics are about to drive one of them into your life forever,” the Russian prince said, sniffling a bit.

Kira suddenly leaned over and pulled his left hand up onto the table and clenched it.

“I… I’m not going to lie, Les:  I’m more than a little disgusted by you and my brother,” she said in a low voice.  “But politics:  can you get me pregnant?  Preferably more than once?  I’ll… I’ll look the other way if I have children.”

Laszlo stood, pulling them both up with him.

“I swear.”

Anastasia stood, too, and put her hand on the shoulders of her siblings.

“So why,” Annie asked, back in the present, “do you feel that about Arabia Terra?”

“Something to do with her,” Kira said, letting go of Les and pointing straight down.  Toward Reina.  “I… I’m learning to hear things, I guess you call it, and the whispers have to do with Arabia Terra, the PM, and…”

She looked to Laszlo.

“And your brother Edward.  I swear to God, I don’t know why but I think his life is in danger.”

“It… it cannot be immediate.  He’s back on Earth – ” Les began.

“No, it’s not.  But there’s something.” Kira gave a smile which didn’t reach her eyes.  “I’ll try harder to understand!  I’m still very young at being one of you, er, us!”


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