A lengthier addition as I’m travelling this extended weekend. Daughter #1 is graduating college with a technical degree and completely debt-free. I want to be there to honor her for her hard work. A week later she’ll be in Japan for an internship. I hope she’s been watching lots of anime for her language lessions.
Below… well, it’s not really a surprise to us, as we saw the end of Part Two. Still, Aurie’s announcement surprises everyone, even her husband who got her that way an hour before. I do wonder what Julian means about Eloise “being different” as she is entirely human. I might be misunderstanding what the lad means. When he said, “my family are scavengers,” I nearly spit-taked my Martini onto the laptop screen.
And as we have all seen, once you put a glass in Eloise’s hand, she doesn’t stop. Very cheap date.
Enjoy my content? Buy me a beer!
“You did very well, Eloise,” Johnston said, leaning back.
“I… yes, Julian?” he had leaned closer and was somewhat rudely smelling her hair.
“You’re different, too.” It seemed to depress him. “I want to go home, Dad.”
“After dinner, we will,” he said, standing. “You need to get back to your Brotherhood. This should make for quite the story to them.”
“I don’t think they like me,” he muttered.
“But I do,” she said, turning and taking his face into her hands, kissing one cheek then another. He was glowing red in embarrassment.
“And I thank you for your help. Do you think we can be friends? I do like your older brother, after all,” she asked.
Rather than pulling away like any boy, he surprised her by leaning his head to her chest and putting his arms about her.
“Fanatic loyalty. Mom always says that. I don’t even know what it means,” he sniffled between her breasts. Looking up, Eloise saw the three other techs in the room either looking away or wiping at their eyes.
This family is so different.
“Come,” Johnston said, standing. “Let’s grab a bite with the Regent, if she’s available, then get you back to quarters. Can’t have a foreign national shot in the dark, after all.”
Walking not to the cafeteria but the office buildings she’d been in earlier, Johnston explained the Brother- and Sisterhoods of the imperium. A dozen kids, randomly assigned together from eight to eighteen. “It’s been a huge source of our social cohesion,” he admitted.
“I’ve heard a little about them,” she replied. “So, even your family gets inducted?”
“No exceptions. Although, Aurie rocked the boat a little when she resigned at sixteen to serve in the legions.”
“And she’s how old now? Running your country?” Eloise asked.
“Twenty-five.” He clapped his hand on his son’s shoulder. “Maybe Jules, here, will be a Regent, too!”
“I’m only human, Dad,” he said. “You know I can’t.”
“The top jobs only go to these demi-humans?” I didn’t know that. But I bet our intelligence service does. “That’s got to make a pretty small talent pool.”
“To some degree, yes,” Johnston allowed. “But they do think much faster than us; getting more done in a day that we could in a week.”
“Oh.” More danger to report home.
The Prince Consort pulled a smartphone from his pants pocket and glanced at the screen. “Regent says she’s finished with Jimmy – that could be good or bad – and wants to eat. Conference Room Two, just in the building ahead.”
“A sumptuous feast?” Eloise asked, hopeful. Little Julian snorted.
“We’ll be lucky if there’s anything warm. My family are scavengers,” he said, holding open the door for both adults.
Up some stairs and down a hall, it turned out the lad was correct: several platters of cold cuts of meat and cheeses. The saving grace was her spying the bottle of that local whiskey at the far end of the table. But Bob warned me about drinking around his family, especially one of them… Her eyes flicked to where Regent Aurelia lounged almost bonelessly in a chair, eyes hooded with a faint smile. Her husband, Jimmy, was prepping two small plates for the both of them and waved them in.
“From your pose, Regent, I’m going to guess you’ve already had your main meal?” Johnston laughed, looking from her to Jimmy.
“Yes,” she said in a dreamy tone. Her eyes opened and were glowing gold. “In fact: good news. I’m pregnant.”
“You’re what?” Jimmy froze, nearly dropping the plates. “You are? When?”
“Just now.” Aurelia first stretched her arms over her head before resting her right hand onto her belly. “What interesting, new sensations, you have gifted me, my husband. The rest of you, get some food, too. I have to be back at my desk in thirty minutes.”
Taking the initiative, Johnston went right to the bottle and poured some into three tumblers, taking one to Jimmy and handing the other to Eloise.
“Our most sincere congratulations, Regent Princess Aurelia Hartmann,” he said in a formal tone Eloise had not heard before. He raised his glass and they did likewise. “Deus vult!”
After coughing a little on his whiskey, Jimmy spoke up. “As abrupt as this was, I hope in a few weeks you can tell me if it’s a son or daughter, Aurie.”
“He’s a boy. I know now.” That’s just impossible, Eloise thought. Or, is it? “We can play the name-game later, but I like Iakov, the Russian form of James, your name. Or Arthur, though Artorius sounds better.”
“I…” the young man, obviously flustered, took another drink. “I’m sure we’ll think of something, my love.”
“Thank you, Jimmy. No one told any of you to stop eating,” she ordered.
Swallowing all of hers, Eloise set the glass down and picked up a few pieces of roast beef and Swiss cheese. She was surprised when Johnston refilled it for her. Oh, what the hell? I’m at these people’s mercy, anyway.
Not sure of protocol, but as no one else sat, she didn’t, either, focusing most of her time on this most powerful person in the world. The Regent’s eyes had faded just a bit, were still brighter than a human’s. A normie’s, Julian had said. Completely unselfconsciously, she waved her husband over and gave him a kiss Eloise would never have done in public. She heard the boy mutter something unhappy.
“As I even mentioned to this foreign spy here,” Aurelia waved at Eloise, “we take our physical contact seriously in this family. One of the reasons there are so many of us, I suppose! I guess you’ll be hard at work on my aunt once we get her back, Stephen?”
Julian set his plate down and left. The Regent laughed.
“My wife has said that, even at forty-four, menopause is not yet an issue for her. He may be upset by our words, but I know my son adores his older sister, Ildi. And, I bet he would not mind a baby brother or sister,” Johnston replied.
“Or three or four!” Another laugh. She stood. “I must speak to some Ministers in Vienna now, then, with my secretary, the Superintendent of our new Naval Academy in Mobile, your old home town, Stephen. We must resolve the matter of my cousin Livia, in Texas. I’ll be back in our bed around oh-one-hundred, Jimmy. The rest of you? I want to talk about our three, well, four I suppose, missing relatives at eight in the morning. Clear?”
The Regent was out the door before they had finished answering. Stephen was not kidding how fast they think and act. Jimmy nearly collapsed into the chair his wife vacated.
“Another?” Johnston asked, holding the bottle. “And it looks like we’ll be headed home after tomorrow’s meeting, instead.”
“No. No, thanks,” he said, shaking his head. “I’m still new to this and need my wits about me.”
“You’re not the only one,” Eloise muttered, taking a gulp and waving for another. “Is it okay if we eat some more? It’s been a big day.”
Johnston indicated the table as his son came back in, to be scolded by his father.
“The only one embarrassed was you, Jules,” he said. “And you have no reason to be. We were talking about things perfectly suited for the married. Nothing “pervy,” as I heard you say once.”
“I’m sorry, father.” He’s more formal now, Eloise noted. “I’ll be better next time. May I eat, too?”
“Absolutely! Have to keep a growing boy fed! After all, you’re going to have a line of girls waiting to marry you in a few years,” Johnston laughed as his son turned red again.
“It,” she paused to swallow the cheese cube, “it is amazing that I am here. Having a conversation like this with people like you. Like her.”
“I miss Bob so much…”
“Here’s some water for you, Eloise,” Johnston said, helping her into a chair, clueless as to her drinking habits. “Is there anything else we should cover before our meeting in the morning, Jimmy?”
“You have the same reports I do, but right before, I, ah,” he smiled, “had some us-time with Aurie an hour ago, there was a report from Aqua to Reina. Essentially, nothing has changed from the SAR at their end.”
“I’ll take a look at it before we retire. Jules and I are going to the chapel and might do some lifting before bed.” He paused to look at their guest. “Your plans, Eloise? Or just some rest?”
“There,” she drank the water just as fast as the whiskey, “there was one thing: the Regent called me a foreign spy. Am I confined to quarters?”
Not sure if she was kidding, Johnston played it straight.
“She was kidding, Eloise,” he said softer, helping her up. “It was a joke. But…”
“But what?” she demanded.
“It’s something very personal to her,” the older man said, caught. “You should ask her in the morning. Here, hold my arm.”
“Thank you, Stephen.” Julian said nothing about flirting.