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The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye (Cover Art)

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Chapter 123 - The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye[]

'The press are calling him...

...'Victor the Mad', The Estates General is pushing to have him unseated." Katherine Morgan Steiner-Davion poured a deep-bellied glass of amber liquid, "And honestly, who can blame them? Want one?"

Leutnant Arthur (Steiner-Davion) 001 shook his head and held up his palm, "No thanks, Kate. You're talking to me, it was so important that you actually brought a DropShip to the base here. I take it Peter wasn't interested."

"Peter is having...a personal crisis. He's gone into seclusion and won't speak to anyone. YOU, on the other hand, have finished your mad, mad, mad little quest to get through Warship" she rolled her eyes, "'re at least available until you've gained your assignment."

"My assignment's docked. if you look out your window-see that ship with the black sails? that one's mine." he said, indicating one of the new-build 'cutters' for the AFFC's light patrol force. "what you're looking for, is that I'm waiting on my remaining unassigned crew and stores to be loaded, and you decided to interrupt my Penny-Time. this is going to ****** with my leave accrual something fierce, Sis."

"Who can I talk to, Arthur? Victor's policies are tearing up the nation!"

He sighed, "Ardan Sortek's got time these days." he suggested, "Maybe Great Aunt Nondi? I don't know, what about Mom?"

"Mom is...not the optimum choice for this."

"Meaning she already told you to drop it." Arthur suggested, "Which is reason number fifty why I decided on a Professional Naval Career. I don't have to deal with the family squabbles or the civilian politics. I have my job and I don't have to worry because I'm fourth or fifth on the list of 'next most eligible target for a coup', and well out of the way for that grand family tradition of stabbing each other in the back for political position."

"I wouldn't!!" Katherine scoffed.

"Wouldn't you?" Arthur mused, "You went to university, political science major. You did well enough Vic himself picked you for his heir and you're fretting about policies you advised him on." he kept his hands neutrally at his side, "Seems to me you're picking up on that old Davion tradition or you sure as hell lined yourself up for it. Either way? I Like the direction with policy, Kate, I like kicking the bumbling non-compos out of positions where they dump the locks by breathing, I like having reliable supply and support. I like working with people who know where they can find both Hat and Towel in an emergency." He crossed his arms, "So do you or you ought to anyway."

"That's very presumptuous you little shit, I still remember you pissing the bed!" exclaimed Katherine

"Yeah, so do I," Arthur commented, "but I also remember you and Dad going off away from the rest of us at family gatherings. You're not so much unlike Dad that you would accept things being as ****** as they were before our brother started cleaning house. Victor might've been Dad's heir, but Dad always loved you best."

"Is that what you think this is? a competition??" ,she was upset now.

"Yeah, I do. Only you're the only one running it. Dad loved you best and for some reason known only to god. Victor trusts you better than anyone else. That's why you're here, way th' hell on the wrong side of the realm to bitch about him to me, while interrupting my time with my Fiancé right before I head out on a six month show-the-flag on the Taurian border. Where we're going to show the flag, kill pirates, and render aid to merchant shipping while Division Three's engineers start repairing, retrofitting, or installing service stations and recharge stations to boost the economy in a part of our father's realm that has been consistently plagued by piracy and economic stagnation...which I find very exciting, and which bores the ****** out of you, and we both know it."

"Why don't you trust me then?" her eyes narrowed in realization.

"Because I remember being a kid with you." he said, "I remember that you pushed for those special times with Dad. I remember some of the shitty things you did to Pete and to Yvonne. I remember your habit of telling only half the truth when it suited you. I Love you, but I don't trust you as far as I can throw a Jump Core...I can offer you some advice though."

"What advice?" she demanded

"Never assume you can meet with Ryan Steiner and not be observed." he said firmly, "SOMEONE will always know."

She paled, "Wat do you think you know about that?"

He tapped the side of his nose, "Sis, I won't rat you out, but you need to think-if I know who else knows? Who else would suspect, hmm? I have been way the ****** out of the loop. I don't have designs on the throne. So no spies, but somehow, I know about it. Maybe someone's watching you, hey? as the single most desirable bachelorette in the two realms....there's someone paying attention? SO, maybe you should play things straight instead of trying to out-Fox our father."

Her cognac forgotten in her hands, she stared..."You won't tell?"

"Not my circus, not my monkeys." Arthur said, "I prefer it if my siblings don't play a rousing game of palace coup. I really prefer if you two got along in real life the way you do in the fiction we all want to live in...but Sis, I don't have 'Archon-Prince' stamped on my destiny and I don't want it."

"So what do you want?" she asked numbly.

"I want to earn a Pathfinder's patch, Sister-of-mine, I want to break records." he said seriously. "Barring that, I want to be remembered for doing a good job where I am. Which is, thank you god, as far from either throne as I can get in the mortal coil. Chronometer says today is January 8, 3059, so I have eight years before I have to worry about fighting a war, and I'd much rather spend that time NOT fighting a civil war.

"So...did she listen?" Penelope asked.

"I don't know." Arthur said, "I did get something I didn't expect out of it. The rumor's right, sometimes Jump-Dreams show us things that either really happened, are really happening, or will happen. My little experience surfing the hull by accident? yeah, Kate was meeting with Ryan and Bobby-K, and yeah, she's planning something."

"Are you going to do anything about it? Warn Victor even??"

Arthur sighed, "I can imagine exactly how that will go- 'Hey Vic, sorry to bother you but your top policy advisor, our beloved sister? she's out to depose you and conspiring with traitors to do it-how did I find out? Oh! well see, I got stuck on the hull during a jump and hallucinated it, but it's all one-hundred-percent!!' right? see how crazy that sounds?"

Penelope giggled. "Yeah, I guess so...still..."

"I warned her off, she'll be looking for spies, but she won't be making her moves." Arthur said, "At least, I hope that's what she's doing."

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