Broke 2000 words. This is supposed to be a short story, right?
Per my usual, got stuck at the end of this. Had a head-slap moment at Mass when (…a short story, right?) I realized I don’t need the granular details. These collections assume the reader has at least a passing familiarity with Machine Civilization so I can turn the exposition waaaay down. Thus, we’ll be back to Tamera with Lem in the next scene.
I think Fussy’s 180, below, was hilarious.
Enjoy my content? Buy me a beer! Let’s start the year off right!
“And what is that brings you here from your studies in Tokyo?” Yuë asked, indicating for one of his to pour a small measure of green tea for the both of them.
“Not just Tokyo, Duke,” she replied, picking up the ceramic cup and pausing it before her mouth. “I range all over Japan’s islands, getting older. Why, I’ve even ridden one of their new destroyers into space. How small the Earth looks from up there!”
His cough into his tea and onto the table was instantly wiped away by another retainer.
“So,” he said even slower, lowering his cup to the table, “you have been on one of their new spaceships?”
“Yes! Perhaps I can offer a similar jaunt to you and your family with one of the imperium’s ships. Ours are faster, you know.” She closed her eyes and sipped at the tea. “That is more polite than when Beijing killed my mother at Savannah.”
Ildi! Behave yourself! the empress shouted at her. This is Lem’s life we are talking about!
“While my race, that was not my country nor my government,” the duke rumbled, sitting back. The girl was aware of the consternation along the walls.
“It was a long time ago and of no account…”
What! I DIED, daughter…!
“…and what is of account is that of you and your, um, the land you so wisely guide,” the demi said, ignoring her mother’s outburst. “I am here in a diplomatic capacity to ask a favor of some of your land’s time and energy. But not a favor: we are more than willing to negotiate what we wish.”
He took the cup, drained it, set it down, leaning forward.
“Princess Hartmann? Why are you here?” he asked.
“EAST. The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak. The reactor on Science Island in Hefei. We need to use it for a day.” Ildi decided to gamble with the truth. “My cousin is sick. We can use it to cure him. That, obviously, incurs, ah, obligation between your lands and that of my mother.”
Ildi… carefully, the Empress whispered.
“When?” Yuë said directly.
“The sooner the better. A boy is dying, Duke Yuë. I cannot imagine you want that weighed against you once you pass.”
“Everyone out!” he abruptly ordered. After some confusion and scurrying, the two doors finally shut. Ildi, rightly, assumed they were being monitored. Yuë himself poured more tea for the both of them.
“We need to talk, Princess,” he announced.