Filling in some details about who is who and where they are. While I’m a “pantser” not a “plotter,” I do like to know where the pieces are on the board before all the action breaks out.
The line, “Did you just make that up right now?” is precious. And, yes, I run with it. Full credit goes to my wife; when I was musing about where take the story, she said: “they stumbled into a stargate. Happens all the time.”
Enjoy my content? Buy me a beer!
He and his cousin talked about the disappearance and ongoing rescue efforts while Eloise remained silent, overwhelmed at all she heard: the miracle motors, Aqua, terraforming…
“You okay over there, Miss Patel?” Aurelia suddenly asked in mid-sentence.
“I thought I was confused a few minutes ago. Maybe bewildered is a better word, now?” She looked at Bob. “I still don’t know why I’m here.”
“You are connected to Robbie, here,” the Regent explained, setting her empty glass down and taking her cousin’s. “That means you matter to our family. It was you, after all, who came up with the time-slip hypothesis, not that I’m completely sold on it, though.”
“You were sold enough to nearly mind-rape my friend, Aurie,” Bob noted, turning to Eloise. “What she did just a bit ago? She was scouring your unconscious, parts of you you likely don’t know are there, searching for clues.”
“She must have got what she wanted,” he shrugged, “else I bet the Regent here would have reached out to one of the Machines to tear into your mind. That has killed people, El.”
“You… you would do that to me?” Eloise asked, both scared and angry.
“Besides God, family is everything to us,” Aurelia said as if stating the obvious. “As you were meant to be here and meant to say what you did, I’d like to think it was Providence who put you in our way. That means I have to play nicer with you than I might otherwise have. If you can’t do good, better do bad well.”
“Speaking of family,” she shoved the two empty glasses in Bob’s hand, tossing her head for more, “you talked to your high command but not yet to your family. That can be arranged.”
“They, Regent, know I am a serving officer of my country and might be away on assignments for weeks or months, out of communication,” the Lieutenant said, her voice steadier with a topic she understood. “But I do appreciate your offer.”
Back with more water, Bob asked, “By the by, why wasn’t your brother here?”
“Because he is in transit to Mars, too. Thanks,” the last as she retook her glass. “He and my dad are medical doctors, Miss Patel, and know more about demi-humans than any non-Machine. If there is a medical emergency once we recover my family, I want someone there.”
“So your sister-in-law, Sky…?” he continued.
“Is home with Mom and Dad with her son, until Roland returns. She objected, at first, that stiff-necked Kentucky yokel,” Aurelia gave an unpleasant smile, “but I insisted.”
From the corner of his eye, Bob saw El shudder.
“So that just leaves my half-sister, Ildi,” he concluded. “Still in Japan?”
“Correct. But I keep her fully informed.”
“She’s one of your kind?” Eloise asked. “Demi-human?”
“Yes. And a fun little girl to be around. I do miss her. Now,” she plunked her glass onto the map on the table, “setting aside violating everything we know about physics, what might have happened to pull your mom and brother forward? I think Kalí can do it as a grace from God, just like my occasional precog – and no talking about that – but here… did the rising water expose some ancient artifact? Knowing Fussy, she would immediately start messing with it.”
“Did you just make that up, right now?” Bob asked, surprised.
“Uh, huh.” Aurelia lightly punched his left arm. “Recall how my Mom got here, Robbie. We don’t know what we don’t know about these new, Changed, worlds.”
A tap at the door followed by an older woman coming in. Long black hair streaked with some silver. Wearing a light tan business suit with a skirt, she was a few inches taller than Bob but significantly taller than Aurelia. Who smiled to see her.
“Colour!” Aurelia cried. “Perfect timing, like always. We were about done here, for now. Robbie? This is my personal secretary, good friend, and touchstone to not be like our great grandfather, Colour Jensen. Like Miss Patel, here, she’s from up north. Northern Federation. Colour? This is my cousin, Robert.”
“Given their importance,” Bob said, walking over with his hand out, “I would have ordered those a bit differently, but thank you for taking care of our Regent, Mrs. Jansen. And this, behind me, is Lieutenant Eloise Patel, Canadian Army.”
“What interesting friends you make, Aurie. And if you are her family, please call me Colour. Hello, there, Lieutenant Patel,” she called with a wave. “Always nice to see someone from our neck of the woods.”
“I know you don’t forget but are forgetful, so you told me to come and remind – ” the secretary addressed the Regent.
“Yes, yes. Robbie and Miss Patel? You are at leisure until dinner with me at eighteen hundred. I’ll have someone find you and tell you where as I don’t know right now.” She stared at Eloise. “That uniform could be trouble. Clothes are being sent to your guest quarters right now. Please change, first. Wait.”
The Regent again walked into Eloise’s personal space and sniffed, rudely.
“She’s ovulating, Robbie. Now is not the time for such a complication. That’s your cousin asking nicely. Please don’t have me make it an imperial command.”
“We have already had such a discussion, Regent Aurelia,” he said with some formality, forcing himself to not smile. “We will behave.”
A nod and she and her older friend were gone. Eloise let go a great sigh.
“Your family is exhausting, Bob.” She brightened a little. “Or is it Robbie?”
“Cousin Aurie is the only one who ever calls me that. I was named after my father, who died just before I was born,” he replied.
“Oh.” She took a few steps and gave him a gentle hug. “I’m sorry, Bob.”
“It’s okay.” Better not kiss her. “Let’s get you changed. I’ve an idea what we can do today.”
“And that is? You were ordered to not touch me, after all.”
“I was asked to not get you pregnant. There’s a lot of leeway in that,” he leered just a little. “No. There’s a two-hundred-year-old distillery just west of here. How’s that sound?”
Very cheap date, Bob thought.