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Can you tell me where we can start again (cover art) Chapter Art

Chapter 35[]

Can you tell me where can we start over?[]

Royal Palace Ball Room
Lyran Alliance
December 25th, 3057

For her mandatory appearance at the Archon's Christmas eve celebration, Elizabeth kept to the grim warning of 'black tie' with just a bit of personal defiance.

Tuxedo jacket, in black, with a blue-lined black cape, white gloves, top hat, a Steiner-blue carnation pinned to the pocket, a bow-tie on a crisp white shirt, and ankle-length skirt of black trimmed in red and blue, and an Elbar bluewood cane with silver trimming at the cap and grip.  she wore her hair down, pinned away from her face with almost invisible clips.

Whatever disrespect she intended for the compulsory invitation, it was hammered flat.  The two gentlemen from Lohengrin accompanying her as 'carers' wore white tuxedos trimmed in Steiner Blue and gold.

It made for a matched set, especially important in the presence of nobles in officer's dress and Ladies (or consorts) in diaphanous silks.

Still, it was attention-grabbing.

She moved carefully. Her joints aching from the aftermath of her seizures, her voice still a little hoarse as she returned greetings from nobles whom had treated her as a nobody before the address.

The pity in their eyes burned like shame.

Elizabeth, thankfully, was not asked to dance by any of the unattached nobles and wound her way to the bar.
"What will you be having, your Grace?" the steward manning it asked.

"What's expensive?" she asked.

"The Champagne is imported..." steward began
"No. The distilled." she said, "What's expensive? The most expensive stuff you've got behind that bar?" she asked.

He brought out a bottle with a 2995 date on it.

"That'll do." she said, "Give me a glass, and leave the bottle."

"Make that two glasses." a voice came from behind her, and she turned.

Daniel Brewer stood there, probably the only other civilian in the place.  "Hey, grew UP!"

He smoothly took the bottle and poured for both of them.  "So did you.  You never come to Hesperus."

"I'm a jet-setting idle rich." She teased,  "You never come out to Kowloon."

"I'm a housebound idle rich." he chuckled.

"Salud."  they clinked glasses.

"I hear rumors." he said, "Like you're behind the drop in Endo-Steel pricing."

"One of my mistakes." Liz confessed.

"Not a mistake from my end." he said candidly, "We've been able to push through development on half a dozen advanced models almost half a decade ahead of projections.  If you keep making those kind of mistakes, you'll make me an even richer man."

She laughed.  "I'm actually glad some of it is working out. For my next trick, I think I'll do cards."

He produced a deck of cards from a pocket, bound with a ribbon, "Like these?"

She accepted the gift, "Very much..." she looked at them, "Danny! They're marked just like-"

"Just like the ones you had in third grade." he grinned, "I remembered. do you still play with magic, or is the outfit just an outfit?"

"It's..." she sighed, "Just an outfit.  I haven't kept up my skills since childhood."

"Too bad.  I was hoping that was a trick yesterday." he turned serious, "How bad is it?"

"Oh, you know, gone symptomatic, early stage two." she said, "You're not going to pity me, are you?"

"I still remember you making that kid Francois whats-his-name eat dirt in the playground, Lizzie." he said, "No pity from my end."

"Then we'll continue to drink the Archon's booze together." she smiled, "Don't you have, like, a fiance or a wife or something now?"

"Fiancee, and yes, she's delightful." He told her, "You really should meet her."

"Maybe if I'm down by Hesperus on business someday." she allowed, "Your father went with Krupp."

"That's why he's out." Daniel told her.  "We shouldn't be talking business here-it's considered rude in some quarters."
"Oh, yeaaahhhh." she rolled her eyes.  "Like we have anything else worth discussing."

"Well, we can imitate the press and gawk at everyone's outfit." he suggested, "Or we can talk about the civil war that is inevitable thanks to the secession."

"There's only one war worth discussing." Elizabeth stated, "It's coreward of here." she was grim.

"and that's business again." he said.  "How did she get you to show up?"

"Threatened to have me committed to 'treatment' for the Syndrome." Elizabeth confided, "So it was 'show up or die in a hospital bed' least she gave me a choice, you?"

"Business." he said, "I have contracts with the Realm, and if I want to keep having those contracts, accepting an invitation and attending the Archon's parties is part of the price."

"Harsh lever." she noted.
"Harsh times...Hello Margrave Kell." Daniel stated.

Liz looked up, and found herself facing a somewhat angry Morgan Kell.

"Well...should've made it three glasses." she said.

"I have my own." Morgan took the seat across from her.  "That was...deeply insulting, Duchess." he said.
"No disagreement here." Liz told him, "It was. They voted to accept your son's followers in their quest for Asylum.  You'd almost think people have forgotten they're the ones who've conquered most of the worlds we lost in the last seven years, including Tamar."

"I...think I better go, Liz." Daniel said.

"Oh pish-posh Daniel.  You're not even finished with your drink." she said, "Have a drink with the Morgan Kell for christ's sake! He didn't stop being a national hero just because I said mean things about his son."

"About that-where do you get off?" Morgan asked.

"Daniel, take the bottle, the Margrave and I are going to the balcony. Could you be a dear and...assure our privacy?" she asked, standing.

"I can do that." Brewer said, straightening himself as she started to the balcony doors, "Margrave? what we have to say is not for...polite company, is it?"

Kell nodded, and followed her as she hobbled, leaning on her cane, to the doors and outside.

The Triad is cold as hell in December.

Elizabeth took out a cigarette case, and extracted a pre-rolled joint, with a small silver lighter.  "I would offer you a hit, but this stuff is medical grade and pharmaceutical prescribed. It be probably rougher than the stuff the kids smoke when their teachers aren't looking.  Let's have it out in the open."

"Out here, in the cold, while you are getting high?"

"I'm getting normal. this stuff would knock you on a loop, Mein Herr." she corrected him, "At least I'm not shooting up on morphine while we're speaking.  You want to yell at me, I'm ready to be yelled at, and we're at least somewhat private here. Though I kind of suspect if I provoke you enough, even Katherine's medical people won't be able to put the pieces back in place-it's a hundred meters to the pavement from here."

"I would never-" Morgan began

"A girl can dream." she sighed, "The Archon wants me to make a big show of contrition and acceptance. You want me to recant. I'm somewhat less interested in either, but I'm willing to be fair about this. Since the vote's already cast and you've already won."

"You can't hold what happened to your Brother against my son!"

"He wasn't there?" she asked.

"He wasn't there." state firmly Morgan

"But he was part of their forces, and he provided them with intel." she continued.  "So in a very real strategic sense he was there, even if he wasn't pulling the triggers himself.  I'm not just holding Tamar against him, that one was just the final straw, if you recall."

"I do." he said.

She reached up and opened her blouse and pulling it to the side to reveal a puckered scar above her left breast.  Morgan flinched a little.  "It was the last straw, Morgan.  My world lost our best chance at a good Duke on Tamar. I was forced into a role I'm not good at."  she closed her shirt, and retied her tie.  "I wanted to be a damn Scholar, Morgan, I knew I was dying young. I wanted to push the boundaries of what is known, and instead I have to be a...a...Politician!  The Clans took every hope I had."

"Phelan didn't take it from you."

"No..he got to take it from other people instead." She hissed, "My story isn't special, Morgan Kell.  My family isn't the only one destroyed by their invasion. My hopes weren't the only ones annihilated by them, but I'm in the lucky group-none of mine were made into their slaves."

"That's not quite true." he told her.

She stopped.  "What do you know?"

"Henry." he told her, "Phelan's Watch people confirmed it. Your brother Henry survived Blackjack, he joined the Jade Falcons. He's an ideological convert." he snarled it, almost triumphantly.

"So my brother is a traitor." her expression froze.  "He's a... where is he?"

"What will you do?" Morgan asked.

"Who knows about this?" asks Elizabeth

"Everyone will soon enough." he told her.

She drew a deep drag on her dope, and flicked the joint over the railing.  "Does she know?"

"I would surmise the answer is yes." Morgan told her.  "What are you going to do?"

"I don't know yet." Elizabeth stated, "I've never had a traitor in the family before. This does make things more they have a lot of intelligence on the Jade Falcons?"
"Considering the long term rivalries involved? Yes." Morgan told her.  "What do you want to do?"

"Drag him home, get him de-programmed." she said, "They must have...brainwashed him somehow!"

"What if they didn't?"

"Then...I don't know." she said.  "I guess I shouldn't have been so hard on you..."

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