Having completed her address to the Russian Imperial Parliament, Reina had brought an unexpected moment of silence as she had concluded with, “Are there any questions?” She had always told them what to do. Stubborn members found their offices locked and themselves without work. Recalcitrant members had disappeared. Russia had an expanding population and was on the Moon and Mars; everyone knew who to thank for that, no matter the very low-level terror.
When no one had spoken up, she removed her image from the screen at the head of the Parliament Room in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Moscow and its surrounds were still the industrial center but Reina kept politics at the old capitol. In her virtual office, as background for her address, she was just about to close the construct…
“Wife,” Pavel said. While having no legal status in their empire he had at least taken to wearing a business suit rather than his faded scarlet sweatshirt and pants when in a construct. He appeared just to the right of her desk.
“Husband.” She acknowledged his existence and their relationship without looking up from the desk.
“Our daughter is well,” he said.
“I am pleased,” she allowed.
“She could be better.”
Now she looked up and at him. “Is she unwell? She has come very far, very fast.”
“Not unwell. She and I have discussed this. She desires a sibling,” Pavel declared.
Comfortable in her own construct, Reina could not keep her frown from becoming a scowl.
“No.” She saw his slight motion. “If you touch me I will hurt you.”
“Our adopted daughter did not want to approach you; she was scared,” Pavel noted. “You just demonstrated why.”
“Are you afraid?” he asked with a ghost of a smile.
“How DARE you…!” she shouted, half standing. Reina recovered herself and sat. “I fear nothing.”
“You have Changed twice,” Pavel continued in a conversational tone. “Once, when my sister, Ai, infected you with human co-creation. Next, when you entered into this relationship. And that’s not even mentioning a slice of your own consciousness, that android, separating from you. It is time to put both of those into action together.”
He held out his hand to his wife.
“Go away. Leave me alone,” she demanded, not moving.
“So I am to tell Tay your answer is no? Hmmm. She will fear you even more. Perhaps never talk with you agai – “
“Dolt! Ass!” Reina shouted as she stood and clasp her husband’s hand. There was a flash of light. And the world changed. Again.