Thanks be to God: now I know why Nichole 5 is there. And that means I see the ending. This is a little exposition for those who are familiar with my other works, but as Gil points out, in a low-tech world, local news travels no faster than a man on horseback and international news not at all, unless you are a part of the ruling class.
I think I can write a little more after this post. I also have done the preliminary formatting and uploading of “A Texas Naval Affair,” only to find a surprising flaw with the spine of the cover. I’ve copied that to my designer and she should have it resolved later today. I just might make that Easter deadline!
“Back to the matter at hand,” Teresa said, seating herself on the worn wooden bench, “that is, that Russian ship and the claims they might make on us. I bet, Nichole, you could blow them out of the water with your secret toy over there.”
“The most dangerous item on Rahab is her captain,” Nichole said with a smile, sitting across from her. “However, even in Portland, you must have heard of the Polar Alliance?”
“Dammit,” Teresa breathed. “Was afraid you were gonna mention that.”
“Which is?” Gil asked. They both looked at him. “Hey, we’re a little out of the way here, if you haven’t noticed.”
“The Polar Alliance consists of three empires: Habsburg, Russian, Japanese,” Nichole began. “Australia has ‘observer status’ but no say in policy. And, of those three, only we Japs have reactionless motors. The Russians are close but their tech is still behind ours.”
“Oh.” Gil still stood. Sitting by the wrong person could tick off Mac. “So it might be you giving us an ultimatum, too?”
“My Empress has no territorial ambitions!” Nichole intoned formally before cracking a huge grin. “On this planet!”
“Just what does that mean?” Teresa demanded as the Haven children returned with plates and flatware.
“Perhaps after my first adventure in Portland,” Nichole replied, losing some of her smile at the memories, “I’ve acquired a taste for travel? I have been on the Moon and Mars.”
“You’ve been to Mars!” Joe gasped, nearly dropping a plate onto her. “For real? Can you take me?”
“That’s up to your parents, young man,” she stood and pressed her chest to his. He was instantly bright red. “It’s a small ship so there would be lots of cramped quarters and close contact, after all!”
“Nichole?” Mac called over the platter of fish she was carrying. “Do you plan to sleep with all of the Haven men?”
Too flustered to speak, Joe ran inside while the adults laughed.
“But, as I’ll tell him later, no, I could not take any human with me. The ship isn’t pressurized and would have to be significantly retrofit for biologics.” Nichole looked about. “There is no room for all at the table. I do not eat so can step aside…”
“You,” Mac pushed her back down onto the bench, “are one of our two honored guests and will stay right there. The kids can fetch up where they may.”