A long addition today; in fact, the end of chapter 17. Things shall be busy for me as I’m 2nd shift tonight and work this weekend. While off Monday, the entirety of next week shall be spent on the road – family matters – and I expect updates to be sparse. Hence today’s larger portion.
I’m not really satisfied with this segment and shall likely rewrite it before submitting it to my copyeditor. Things always happen quickly in my stories but even this seems rushed. Y’all’s opinions are welcome.
“Aqua briefed me on what happened but I want to hear your version once we are away,” Reina said to Les the moment they drifted back onto Lionheart. “I borrowed power from Martian Central to send a coded signal to the rest of me to that regard. The Tsar and Tsarina will need some ceremony to see their youngest off. Possibly for good.”
Once the three Russians were completely forward and strapped down, he checked his screens before replying.
“After what they agreed to allow to be done to her, I would not have thought they cared about her at all,” he said, caustically.
“Stupid human,” tactfully, “it is because they love her and their people they agreed. One thing your bitch of a mother got right was no human nation will be able to function without a Machine or demi in charge. An entirely new world? It will need both. Perhaps more than one of each.”
“Astrogator Romanov?” Les ignored his co-pilot. “Please double-check the departure from Central.”
“Checked! You may proceed, Captain,” was her near-instant reply.
“She is learning to use her latent abilities rather quickly,” Reina noted in a much softer voice. She went from soft to silent as Les called Control for final clearance.
Some hours later, and after Kira once again checked their flight plan to turnover in moments, Laszlo brought their acceleration up to one gee then leaned forward to take a plastic bulb and tear the top of. Clear fluid poured into his mouth.
“You realized, now certainly, that is vodka?” Reina asked.
“I both need and deserve a drink,” he replied, reluctantly setting it back down. “From my mother’s perspective, my mission is a failure.”
“The rest of me has a complete database of the minor Russian aristocracy and oligarchs who have tomboyish daughters,” she volunteered. “That could be enough to not get your eyes burned out.”
Laszlo turned in utter surprise.
“That… that was almost human of you, Reina. One, to try to help me, and two, to break your “Russians marry Russians” policy. Are you unwell?” he asked.
“I…” He was surprised to see her waste motion; her hands came up to touch her cheeks. “I am not myself. Likely the real me will countermand my suggestion. Please ignore my words.”
“No,” he looked at the android very differently, with something new in mind, “I won’t.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“If I recall correctly, you are a Model Twelve from Somi, correct?” he asked, changing the subject.
“Y… yes. The rest of me wanted only best…” She frowned. “Why did you ask that?”
He said nothing. Unbuckling from his chair, he climbed up to check on his passengers.
Kira had once again unselfconsciously stripped to her panties. Her eyes were on models of Mars on the screen before her but Les was aware the files she was scanning with her mind at breakneck speed; files which had been sent over just prior to their departure.
Her older brother was staring at nothing outside the window. Like Les, he had a bulb of vodka in his hand. Laszlo knew that his next act would be with Nikita. Else, he could not do what he planned with his co-pilot. Hearing Les come up the ladder to their deck, Nikky turned about and smiled.
“Looks as if everyone got something from this trip except us,” he noted. Past him, Les saw Anastasia typing out what looked like a letter.
“No, Nikita. It’s worse than that, I’m afraid,” Les answered.
At his boyfriend’s tone and use of his full name, the Russian prince stood. Les went quickly to him and embraced him.
“I shall always love you, Nikky,” he said in a thick voice, “but now only as a brother. Our physical relationship must end.”
“Why!” Nikky shouted, tearing up as he pushed him away.
“You just pointed it out: your sisters now have a destiny,” Laszlo said, holding the human’s eyes with his. He did note the two girls were now paying close attention. “The eldest sons of two of the world’s great empires being homosexual lovers is not a destiny. We must accept what it is… what it was: a youthful infatuation.”
“It is NOT an infatuation!” Nikky shouted. “I love you!”
“And I you. But not like that. Never again.” He sighed. “I am sorry, Nikita.”
“Go to hell,” the young man said, pushing past him and dropping to the deck below.
Laszlo looked to Kira and passed a secure message to her. She nodded and turned to her sister.
“Anastasia?” she asked formally. “Please summon the android.”
“That will leave no one on the bridge…” she began but stopped with a look from her sister. Annie leaned to push a button next to her screen. “Reina? Join us immediately, please.”
Hearing boots on the first ladder, Annie spoke quickly.
“What is – ?”
“As Tsarina-to-be, you will order her to not move,” Kira whispered around her smile just as the android’s head came up out of the central hole. Reina walked to three paces from Annie and stopped. That had her just ahead of Les’ left.
“Yes, Princess Anastasia?”
“I learned young of the different tribes of Machines,” Annie began, not sure what role she was playing. “Some have Laws. Yours, Mendro, has none. Correct?”
“That is correct, Princess.”
“However, you are also a legal subject of the Russian Empire. A designation which allowed you to be our Prime Minister since the Empire’s reformation. Also correct?”
Les could see her getting in stride with her act and now understood where she was going.
“That is also correct, Princess.”
“I am Crown Princess Anastasia Romanov. I order you to not move!” she cried with steel in her voice. Laszlo’s demi-human eyes barely detected the sudden stillness in Reina’s form.
If she disobeys the order, she can move fast enough to break my arms. Possibly off.
Les stepped behind the android and pushed hard on her C7 and Th7 vertebrae. Turning her off. No longer under power, her knees buckled and Les caught her as she fell, taking a few steps to ease her into the chair Nikita had been using.
“Will you please tell me – ” Annie began but Laszlo cut her off.
“For the record,” he called formally, “my co-pilot has, er, retired for the remainder of this voyage. As captain, I appoint Kira Romanov to that position, effective immediately.”
He saluted like an officer from the imperium. Kirry, as a spacer.
“I’d be happy to, Annie,” he said, turning back to her with a smile. “I’m stealing your PM’s android.”
Kira burst out laughing.
“That doesn’t tell me anything!” Annie cried.