327-1107, Sespe (Belaya Subsector), His Lordship’s Starport
--from the personal journal of Lady Olivia Verne
Mom is spending the night in Sir Winston’s cabin. I have the bed to myself, but I’m used to her being here. It’s better when you have someone else to cuddle at night. Nothing against Percy, my tree rat toy, but mom makes everything all right.
I know I’m supposed to ask mom for permission, but tonight I’m looking at the signet ring I got from my half-brother Gerard for my birthday. It’s a simple ring of white gold with the crest of House Verne etched into the place where a gem should be. Gerard put it into a wooden box – teak, mom said – with shiny brass hinges. Also inside the box was a specially-embossed identification card; my Patent of Nobility, naming me the offspring of the traitor François Verne.
Two years ago, I was a homeless orphan living in the air ducts of a backwater mining colony’s starport – hungry and alone. I used to miss that life just after mom discovered me stowed away aboard her old ship, the Silver Dawn, because so much was new and strange. I missed my first mom those days, the one who’d run from Yantra and hid to try to protect me.
She was the mom my father killed to protect the secret of his betrayal. My adopted mom killed my father nearly a year before she and I met. I found all this out last year. So much has happened since I decided to leave Alagon and find Gerard – the brother who I mistakenly believed was my father. Sometimes it’s a little too much.
I still don’t remember much about what happened on Tara – just being fenced in by men in black uniforms. They were so angry at me, all of them shouting conflicting commands. I remember one of them grabbing me by my hair and forcing me to the ground while other hands grabbed my wrists, an auto-injector hissing near my ear. Samantha was screaming at them to stop before the world faded away as the drugs took hold.
They thought I was a psion and they hated me for it. They were terrified of what I might do to them; of what I might learn about them. I don’t have to be a mind-reader to understand that anger, that fear. I read what happened when the Third Imperium decided that the psions had to go, how many died over those brutal years during the purge. That was a long time ago, long before I was born, but the feelings are still there, all these centuries later.
I want to go over to Sir Winston’s cabin and curl up with them both, but mom’s a woman and Sir Winston’s a man; and they like being together. I should be able to make it one night without her beside me in the dark – I did it for months, waiting for the mom who wasn’t coming back. Eventually, I’ll have to have my own bunk, maybe even my own cabin. Our things are starting to crowd each other in the storage spaces of the cabin.
I keep getting distracted by mom’s mobile sculpture; the one Alonzo Cortez made and gave to her. It was so hard not to touch it when I first saw it. Now, I don’t want to – it’s too beautiful when the breeze from the ventilator catches it. How many nights have I fallen asleep listening to its tiny chimes softly sounding as it hypnotically twists and turns? But it isn’t able to cast its magic spell on me tonight, I guess.
Ever since the crash on Modra, mom’s been in a kind of financial overdrive, constantly working on the ship’s finances, spending hours in the computer room running economic simulations. She’s worried that she won’t have enough to cover the trip to Capital in a couple of years. She really wants to go, too. She got a taste of politics on Narmada and now she wants to control it all, it seems.
While my birthday party was very nice, Mom threw a real shindig aboard ship when Valo announced we had entered Belaya Subsector. She broke out a bottle of the Ussan Saramani she’s been saving and had everyone (except me) drink a toast. She acts like she’s never going back to Narmada – at least, not for a long time.
The crew had a good time, telling stories of their times together. The best of these was when Valo told the tale of how he and mom first met, on a mission to Dnieper to rescue Baronet Deidra and how they met Fred and the rest of the Chirpers there – I hadn’t really heard all the details about that before. I didn’t know that Baron Harper didn’t really want to go in the first place, but had to because Duke Darius was going to strip him of his title if he’d refused.
Tabitha’s story about being attacked by the spider-bears of Benue was scary – she even showed me the scar on her arm where its poisoned claw had torn through her combat armor. If Dame Diana hadn’t gotten her to the ship in time, she would have died from the poison, and I never would have gotten to know her as well as I do now.
I like all the crew. They’re my family – even the ones who aren’t aboard anymore. Baron Harper, Dame Diana and Cassandra – it’s sad to think the rest of us are leaving them behind and may never see them again. I still get X-boat messages from them every cycle or so. I read them aloud to the rest of the crew after dinner and I always send a letter back from all of us. Gerard and I have been sending letters to each other, too. I think he really likes Lady Ophelia Wyndham – she’s the daughter of Count Lars Wyndham, who is a friend of Marquis Toyama.
We’ve been star-hopping since the crash on Modra and the down time on Benue getting Golden Dawn repaired. I’ve read Around the World in Eighty Days, and we’ve been doing the Third Imperium equivalent. On the first leg, we traveled from Benue to Tara (where I got arrested by the goons in black) to Lankin to Oya to Landor (and my ninth birthday in jump space).
We lay over on Landor for two weeks while Dawn got her annual maintenance overhaul. Mom made the rest of the crew do training while we were stuck in port and everyone sparred with me, too. They all say I’m getting much better at it. While I like to spar, I don’t know how well I’d do in a real fight – you know, life or death? Part of me hopes I never find out, but I still wonder.
The second leg took us from Landor to Kasai, where we spent a couple of days on shore leave and got to see Dame Beatrice Ballineaux for the first time since the Moot. She’d been part of mom’s voting bloc and the bloc had helped vote her in as Kasai’s new Imperial Liaison. Considering there’s more than fifty separate districts on that world, each with its own culture, language and laws, Dame Beatrice still has a lot to learn about Kasai!
From Kasai, we jumped to Noosa, taking a four-day detour to the closest gas giant to skim fuel, since Noosa is a desert world with a Class E starport. We hardly spent a day on Noosa – just long enough to drop off the freight we hauled there and for mom to buy some stuff she could make a profit on. We did stay long enough to watch the sunset from the upper hull of the ship, which was beautiful, but the sand from Noosa got everywhere aboard ship, and I spent most of the transit to Deua going from compartment to compartment vacuuming it up.
The Noosa-Deua transit also marked our official entry into Belaya Subsector, with the party I’ve already written about. Mom was pretty happy about it. Honestly, I think the only person who wasn’t happy about it was Valo, but he was doing his best to hide it. I’ll keep the secret from everyone but this journal. I just hope he doesn’t leave.
From Deua, we jumped to Sespe, the fief of Baron Inesno Sespe, which is where I am now. His Lordship bought most of our cargo, which made mom happy, then he invited all of us to dine with him at his manor, though he called it a strange name – hacienda. He really laid out a table – I thought I was going to burst by the time his servants brought in desert! But it all was very good and mom had the chefs and staff step out into the dining room so she could complement them all and we all applauded. That made Baron Inesno very happy. Mom was also talking about spending a couple of days here before heading on to Cahabon.
I guess all this writing and Mr. Cortez’s sculpture has finally worn me down again. I’m going back to sleep with Percy.