The Russians are back home. I do not think that Kira will long consider the rodina her home; the compulsion in her to return to her new life on Mars is too great. Anastasia will be very busy in the coming years making sure no one comes between her and the throne… including her Prime Minister. What’s Nikita’s future, currently devastated for losing his lover? I’ve no idea.
After a week of never ending motion and happenings, Laszlo can at last relax and catch his breath before he, too, returns home. Wait… footsteps?
With his new co-pilot easing their ship into Earth’s atmosphere, Laszlo smiled at the recollection of the scene of three days ago. I joined Kirry’s laughter, then Annie did too, not knowing why. I was just explaining to them that I thought the experiment of what Reina-android’s consciousness was evolving into was worth further study. Our merriment was such that Nikky stamped up the ladder, picking up his fallen bulb and sullenly reseating himself in the corner by the window.
“Wins and losses,” he said softly to the data on the screens before him.
“What’s that?” Kira asked.
“Life: wins and losses. And please note, co-pilot Romanov, with minimal thrusters, this ship handles like a cow in air. Take it in gently,” he replied and noted.
“Not from you, I won’t be,” she laughed at him. Les laughed too, ignoring yet another ‘Urgent!’ message on a screen.
There had been one or two transmissions from Earth as they drew closer. By the time they crossed the moon’s orbit, Reina – the complete one – had gone from demanding to angry. A quick meeting between the four reached the conclusion that ‘the android was currently inoperable, with more information coming soon.’ As “soon” was really “never,” it was more a lie than half-lie, but that was their story.
Kira brought them east across the Gulf of Finland at two miles MSL just over Mach two. The grin on her face betrayed to Laszlo just how much fun she was having with this new toy. Being new to demi status, most of her control adjustments were via the panel before her, be he did note when she used her lines for minor course corrections. Fifteen miles out from Kotlin Island, she turned Lionheart southeast and dropped their speed subsonic. Minutes later had them holding motionless one mile above Pulkovo airfield. Given permission to land, Les took control and told her to close her eyes and watch with her mind what he did next.
Cameras on the outside of the ship showed a lengthy dais had been put together about a half-mile away, festooned with flags and ribbons. Kira had gone forward to get her gear, returning with her brother and sister to the bridge just as Les heard the ground crew was ready for him to open the hatch.
“This,” he said pointing at the screen as they closed about him to see, happy that his shoulder touched Nikky’s, “looks like a lot of pomp and circumstance. And I do not see a single legionary flag nor my mother’s Standard. I’m suggesting I not be the fifth hoof about the stable and just stay on board.”
Nikita immediately objected but the two girls were quiet.
“Yes,” Kira said, her eyes glowing, “this is very one-sided. Given most of the money and personnel on Mars is Russian, and my… Good Lord! The Palace has leaked that I’m to be Viceroy of Mars! Hah! Hah!”
She started pounding the top of Les’s chair, laughing so hard.
“In that case,” Anastasia said carefully, “I agree with you, Laszlo. But know that as the imperial heir, I shall mention both you, your ship, and your imperium’s technology allowed this great voyage of ours. If our PM wants to make a stink over that, well, ministers have been dismissed for less.”
“Thank you, Anastasia,” he said, keeping to himself what he thought of her chance of success against a Machine. At the press of button, the door to the airlock opened. Les stood and embraced and kissed them all. Even Nikita.
“We’ll talk again, our way, very soon,” he added to Kira, just before the thick outer hatch cracked open to let in the bright sunlight.
To keep any attention off of the ship and potentially him, he informed the ground crew to hold off until whatever ceremony was complete. In the mean time, he was happy to just enjoy the fresh air and the quiet.
Quiet interrupted by boots on the floor walking slowly from the forward cabin, through crew quarters and into the bridge.
“You’re good,” he said to the android, leaning back in his chair and putting his hands behind his head. She could kill him in a moment if it fancied her.
“I am,” she acknowledged. “I fooled you, after all.”