Book 17. Part Two. 2

Hope everyone is having a fine Easter. Below, we drill down on just what has happened – that they know – to the Empress and her son, Bob’s older brother. Aurelia prays for a miracle. Hey, it’s Easter… I’m not going to disappoint! A wild Kalí appears.

Not really sure where this is going, to be honest. Carryover from “Regent:” Bob does not like his cousin’s new man. I wonder why?

Enjoy my content? Buy me a beer! 

There was a rush to the doors.  Only twelve stood about.  On the large table in the middle of the room, Bob saw a map of Mars.  He knew everyone there; his young uncle, Gabriel, looked bored and scared at the same time, keeping close to his parents.  My grandparents.  Directly opposite, obviously wishing he was somewhere else, was the Regent’s new husband, Jimmy Burns, from Nova Scotia.  Who I had to rescue a week ago.  Loser.  Other than him, there is only one outsider here…

Bob took her hand again.  “Say nothing.  Nothing.”

Aurelia walked to the rough center of all of them and put her arms out to her sides, palms up.

“God.  Help us.”

Arms back down, she began.

“Per the demands of Reina, the Empress and Edward had to be on Mars for the Second Inundation.  Well, at least he did.  I think she went down just to make a point.” She took a deep breath.  “At first, all was nominal.  Ten hours in, the water table was coming up fast.  Too fast.”

The Regent turned in a slow circle as she kept talking.

“There were in Arabia Terra, here,” she pointed at the map.  Bob had memorized it years ago and didn’t need to see.  The central lowlands.  “Aqua told Reina who told me:  contact with the Empress and her son has been lost.”

A gasp from Callie, the Empress’ mother.

“Local, on-site, and orbital SAR has been in progress for nearly fifteen hours, as of now,” Aurelia continued.  “Their ship and that of their escort have been found.  Said escort, nine men, have been safely recovered.”

“And!” Bob’s grandfather, Leslie, shouted.

“No trace, yet, of Faustina or Edward.”

“Fucking Hell!” Leslie shouted again.  “You goddam…!”

“Control yourself, Grandfather,” the Regent said softly.  More effective than yelling back at him.

“So my wife,” Stephen Johnston, the Empress’ second husband, “and her son, are missing, not dead.  From what I’ve read, Mars is a big place.  But they are both like many of you here:  demi-human.  Drones and aircraft with emitters should – ”

“Yes, Prince Consort,” why is she being formal? “that is correct.  But nothing so far.  If they are unconscious or concussed, their lines will not be able to reach out to signal.”

Aurelia paused to once again look around.

“That is where we are.  I have already dispatched two T4s and three T5s to Mars with high-power radar and signal emitters.  They shall arrive in two days.  I have recalled my cousin, Laszlo, from his surveys of the moons of Jupiter.  He and Minerva, under three G constant acceleration, should be at Mars in eight days.  I have…”

She paused and her voice caught.  The silence in the room was total.

“I have spoken with Aqua.” The Thinking Machine in charge of the Martian Terraforming project.  “He does not think them dead.  He is puzzled, though.  And, promises complete cooperation in our search-and-rescue efforts.”

Several sighed.  Bob saw Aurelia’s mother, Henge, weeping, as she leaned into her husband.  The youngest of all of them, little Julian, was trying to be brave, next to his father, Stephen, but was overwhelmed by the powers about him.

Tell me about it, kid.  A normie in a room of these people…

“I invite suggestions to the end of rescuing our family,” the Regent concluded simply.

“Surface craft and divers,” Elizabeth, the Empress’ firstborn said instantly.  Demi-human, with her striking long, white hair and yellow eyes, she was a scientist and engineer.  “Aerial reconnaissance will not suffice.  I am sending this to Aqua now.  He will have to make ad hoc teams in the next twelve hours.”

 “What about Kira?” Bob called out.  “I don’t have y’all’s shit in my head but I can still read a report.  She can hear Mars itself.  She can sense life.”

“That,” he said a bit drolly, talking about his missing mother and brother, “might be useful, right?”

“Message sent,” Aurelia said, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.  “What else?”

A moment passed.  No one else spoke.

“Insufficient,” the Regent announced.  Arms out once more, she went down to her knees.  “We need a miracle.  God, help us.”

One minute passed.  One by one, everyone there knelt.  Some, like grandpa, don’t believe, but most do. 

“Please…” Aurelia cried.

“What?” A soft but muffled girl’s voice.

Bob looked up.  Our win.

Just before the Regent stood a young woman with worn boots, wearing torn rags from her feet to her head, and scratched goggles she was just pulling off to reveal her scraggly, dirty blond hair and her black eye and green eye.  Her k98 rifle across her back, with its bayonet, was nearly as long as she was tall.

“What?” the newcomer asked again.

Aurelia stood and took the other’s shoulders, staring into her eyes.

Distant cousin Kalí, Bob thought carefully, knowing she could hear his mind, is God’s prophet.  That’s – no, she – was who Aurie was praying for.  A miracle.  And here she is.

“Quiet, Robert,” the ragdoll said in a neutral tone.  “Mars, Cousin?”

“Faustina and Edward.” Aurelia clarified.

“They slipped,” Kalí said.

“What?” Aurelia didn’t even try to be polite.

“They slipped.  I can probably get them.” A shrug.

Twelve pairs of eyes looked at the empty space the girl had been.

“What in the hell was that!” Eloise demanded from next to him.

So much for “say nothing.”

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