Chapter Eleven

11.

The Wee Hours of the Morning, 

Friday the 13th, 

Lunar 3, Luka 16 

Somewhere in the Dimensional Divide 

The Neptune’s Rhapsody 

The Great Room 

The cork of a bottle whizzed past my head as Quail opened the fourth of the night. “Who’s up for another?” Nearly everyone raised their glasses and cheered, myself excluded, before the lot of them carried on into another drunken refrain of The Leaving of Liverpool. This time, Quail brought me a glass anyway and began to pour. 

“You might as well try it, kid. Got plenty to celebrate–not everyday you pull a stunt like that one and make it back alive!” His voice was hoarse from all the scream-talking the whole night long, and the occasional breaks into bad singing. 

The vanilla thing to do would’ve been to say no, but everyone else was doing it, and Quail had more or less just given me permission. I took the glass and drank a sip, then another, then handed it back to him for more. Why not? I was done with Lumeria: with its rules, with everything. I was so, so, fucking done.  

“What do ya think?” he asked, looking amused as he filled my glass again.  

“It’s so bubbly,” I said, tracing my tongue over in my mouth as I considered it. “Like soda. But grape-y. But not like grape soda, either.” 

“Baby steps, Pietro. That should be more than enough.” he said, patting me on the shoulder before he went on to the next person. 

I sat there by myself and kept sipping, watching the others as they pranced on with glee.

Not only were the pirates able to salvage what we’d been looking for for the ship, we escaped with our lives. We also left with an impressive bounty of food and fancy wine left behind by the Corpsmen. There was so much it took the others hours to load it — hours I spent recovering in a dirt nap after Hart bandaged up the couple little nicks and scrapes I had got. I was relatively unscathed, apart from my thumbs being broken. Apparently you’re not supposed to punch people like the way you see in the movies after all. Hart called me a dumbass for it, but then accepted my apology from before, under the condition that I keep learning so I don’t end up being that terrible of a person down the line. I promised I would, and told her if I messed up she could sic Jack on me. She replied that she wouldn’t need to–that she was more than capable of hiding my body herself. Seemed best to take her word for it. 

The others evacuated the remaining locals to different colonies while I slept. A few of the locals from Carthage stayed on the ship with us, though I couldn’t tell them apart from anyone else I hadn’t met yet. No one on Carthage could provide much information about what the Corps were up to. All echoed the same information as Isi’s mother had, confirming groups had been meeting there to trade off a cargo of prisoners a few times a week for the past month or so. Their crimes were a mystery. No one knew who they were, what they might be imprisoned for, or why they might be hid away and traded in remote pockets of the galaxy. 

I kept thinking of what Jane said, that they might be people who flunked re-education. For some reason, even after all the weird shit that happened that day, that idea stuck in my mind more prominently than anything else… what happened when you failed? And where did you go, if not home or back to jail?

Hardly in the mood with all of that swimming around in my head, I kept out of the circle of dancing, singing drunks, now empty-again glass in hand, and sat beside the food low-key (high-key) stress eating. With Jane still passed out, I didn’t know who else to talk to or what to say. I’d made a comfortable nook on the ground to sit in, surrounded by trays of cucumber sandwiches and other little posh finger foods we’d found on Carthage. For the most part, the others let me be, except for Kipley and her little beaver friend.  

Every now and again she would come back and sit down beside me, just to check on me and make sure I was ‘having fun.’ I always told her I was (I wasn’t). This time, she brought me another drink, what she presumed was my first. Each sip was a big F-U to Lumeria and to that Admiral that went full-on super villain in front of me. I didn’t feel any different, so I figured it didn’t matter. The others had no problem knocking whatever it was back like water. And like Jane said, the whole rest of the galaxy was out there doing this stuff while my people were apparently just keeping busy with…murder and shit. 

Was I unraveling a bit? Maybe. But nobody could tell, so it was fine.

Cove was among those dancing, partnered to some Lumerian guy I hadn’t met before, both of them completely shitfaced and singing at each other at the top of their lungs. Jack and Hart were a few places away from me, outside the circle, too. Hart sat in his lap and cuddled him, nuzzling her face in his chest. How she could get comfortable like that, let alone to the backdrop of scream-singing, was beyond me.  

Just then, Kipley and her beaver circled back to me for another check in, Quail trailing behind her to refill her glass, and then mine, too. He must’ve forgotten he cut me off.   

“How’s Janey doing?” Kipley asked, as Quail filled her glass again.

“Dunno. She’s with the Boss,” he said, motioning down that hall where Jane had taken me before. “Been in there all day.” 

“Poor thing must be exhausted,” Kipley said. “Hope he isn’t angry with her…” 

“And where was he today?” I asked, realizing I hadn’t seen my so-called ‘boss’ in awhile. My voice was louder than I meant for it to be, and it didn’t sound as much like me anymore.  

Both Quail and Kipley turned to me. 

“Captain doesn’t leave the ship,” Quail said, filling my glass again. “Not often, anyways.” 

Kipley snickered. “He sure came running down today. Landed the ship himself and everything…” 

“Oh of course,” Quail said, grinning. “His little Janey was hurt.” 

Kipley’s shoulders tensed and she clapped her hands. “His precious baby.” 

“Yeeeah… so, what’s going on with them?” I asked, my interest piqued. “Like they’re not like…a thing, are they?” 

I remembered him calling her ‘darling’ when I was with them before, but I hadn’t wanted to ask. He seemed so much older than us, so I was afraid to find out if anything weird was going on. 

Both Quail and Kipley made a face, Kipley’s wrinkling with such disgust she was showing all her teeth. 

Quail cackled into his hand. “Hard no. He’s her dad.”

Whew. 

“It’s not legal or nothing,” Kipley clarified. “We picked her up when she was a wee little bab, but she took right to him,” she said, swirling her glass in the air. She looked away, like she was remembering something reverently. “They’re both real, real shy about it.”

Quail nodded along. “Once, she got him a ‘#1 Dad’ mug for Father’s Day. He cried for days. Tried to say it was hay fever… in space.” 

“Well, we do need to dust more,” Kipley muttered, and noticing my glass wasn’t as full as it could’ve been, gave it another pour. 

I naturally took another big ‘Fuck You, Lumeria,’ swig. I felt less afraid to ask dumb questions for some reason, so there was that.  

“Say… tell me something,” I asked, trying to be stealthy. I was not at all stealthy. “What’s the deal with his eye?”

Quail snorted, and then filled his own glass. “Uh… I think you know what it means.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I waved a hand. “But like, who did he murder?”

“Why don’t you ask him yourself, Pietro?” Quail muttered. “Be like, ‘ey, ello Boss, who’d ya kill?”

“He doesn’t like to talk about it,” Kipley said. “Bad memories.” 

“At least it’s not a good memory,” I muttered, stuffing another cucumber sandwich down, following it with another drink.

“Ah, yes, I remember the first time I killed a man…” Kipley said, gazing fondly into the distance. Quail and I both spat out our drinks. “What? He was a dreadful pedophile—and—and he parked in my spot. He deserved it.”

Quail put a philosopher’s fist beneath his chin, him too looking off as though he was recalling something serious. “Can’t say I’ve ever killed a man… had a few suffocate between my thighs though.” 

Kipley and him exchanged a fistbump, both of them giggling hysterically.  

My face got a bit redder. “Oh wow,” I managed. “You guys…” 

The giggling ended abruptly, with both of them staring at each other, then me, and seeming to realize something they hadn’t before. Both of them let out an awkward squawk, Kipley throwing her hands over her mouth. She rapped a finger over Quail’s lips.     

“Bad, Quazies! Bad!” She shouted. “Divine Lords, not in front of the children!”

“Whoops!” Quail blushed, deeply. “Sorry Pietro. We don’t really get that many kids that are actually, you know… kids.”

Kipley interrupted him. “Wait, wait, wait–speaking of lewd things.” Quail tried to stop her, so she shoved him back out of the way, leaving him to roll on the ground. “You–you, Mister Pietro–You and little Janey looked a little, uhm, interesting this afternoon, what, with her sitting on your chest, calling you an idiot.”

“Huh?” I asked, having forgotten. I was smiling, unbeknownst to me. “Did that really happen?”

Quail burst out laughing, trying to collect himself from the floor. “Hee hee—look at that smile.” 

My face fell. “I—I didn’t mean it like that!”

“Come to think of it, the poor boss must be traumatized…” Kipley said, seeming to realize. “He got there just in time to see it, his poor little baby Janey practically straddling some half-naked stranger in the middle of public…”

And that is the moment when I died. Rather, when I wish I would have died. 

Blushing is not a strong enough word to describe what my face was doing. Thinking back on it, I did remember her grabbing me, but I passed out so quickly after I didn’t remember anything else. I was just happy she was okay. Did it really look that bad…? And, in front of HER DAD…? Her dad, the murder pirate?

“Aw, that’s cute,” Quail said, beaming. “You kinda like her, huh?”

I shrugged, trying (and failing) to look completely disaffected. 

Jane was gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous, and amazing, and so completely special in every way. Did I like her? Or did I want to be her? 

I never really put any thought before into whether I liked girls or boys, or both. Most girls back home were scared of me, and the boys… were also scared of me. All things given, I never had a chance to think about it. Whether I did or didn’t, thinking about it at all in the context of Jane made me feel a little weird in the pit of my stomach, nauseous. 

… very nauseous. 

… or maybe that was just whatever I was drinking. 

“She’s single, right?” Kipley said, to Quail, before turning back to me. “You could have a chance.” 

Quail shrugged. “Personally I don’t recommend dating anyone you meet on the ship, but you do you.”

“That’s a good point,” Kipley said, raising a finger. “None of us have medical.” 

“Err…not what I was going for,” Quail said. “But also true.”  

Too embarrassed to say anything, I kept my mouth shut, clutching my glass tight. This was not a conversation I wanted to be having, but… I felt floaty, absent enough from my head that it didn’t matter. Even in a scenario where maybe I did like girls, and maybe one of said girls was a certain Jane Deux, and that alleged Jane Deux was in fact single, it didn’t matter. She was a million lightyears out of my league. And a tree monster. And the daughter of the guy I needed to pay my way the fuck out of jail, ideally, without also murdering me.  

Kipley got up for yet another potty break and Quail, too, sauntered off somewhere to dance. I appreciated a moment alone to myself, at least until Mwenze brought me some water on a break between songs. Feeling a bit relaxed, I just sat there on my own for awhile. 

“No thanks,” I tried to say. “I don’t think I can drink anything else.”

“…Trust me,” he said, looking rather concerned. “You appear to need this.”

A bit of racket roused me. Quail lept from the circle, bottle in hand. “Boss! Boss! Let’s do a toast!” 

I glanced over. Legato had finally emerged from that odd clock room of his. Jane wasn’t with him. His expression was soft, and he was smiling. Though he was still dressed similar to the way he’d been before, his typical man-bun was let down into filthy, yet somehow still beautiful, waves, bouncing behind him. Quail ran over to him, an empty glass in hand.       

 “I suppose we should,” Legato said, taking the glass. He filled his with water. “We do have a number of things to celebrate…”

The dancers left the circle, taking glasses themselves. Quail did too. 

Legato hesitated a moment, rotating his glass in hand. “First, a welcome to all new members of our crew, temporary, permanent, and everyone in between,” he said, raising the glass to several of us, including me. Shouts of applause and whistles followed him with each acknowledgement. “Today was a particularly challenging day for all of you, and for that I apologize. That said, I am impressed. Not only did you manage to repair the ship but, we also gained invaluable information about the operations of the Orias Corps… and managed to save everyone left on Carthage. Each of these deeds bring us much closer to our goals.” 

“–One step closer to revolution!” Cove called out. 

“Indeed,” Legato said. “One step closer to removing Her Majesty from the throne…”   

  More shouts interjected. “Off with her head!”

Legato raised his glass, along with all the others. “…Her, and her entire court, and everyone in the Palace at Lumena.”  

  I sat motionless, still holding my water bottle to my chest. The others cheered and drank, happily rattling on about their hopes for a bloody rebellion, of burning Lumena to the ground, and taking back everything that my people had stolen.

Cove led some of the chants, holding his glass in the air. “And we’ll burn the whole fucking city and every last Ambin in it.” 

Mwenze and the others cheered, raising their fists. Him and Cove clanked their glasses.

“It’s only right,” Mwenze said, knocking his glass back. “To give them a taste of their own medicine.” 

“We’d have to take their scalps for that,” Hart chimed in. “Wear their skulls like crowns. Sell the skin of their hands as purses. Put their hearts in gift shops.”  

“And bury them alive,” another added, a Golin I hadn’t met before. Hart gave him a high five, her face lit up with laughter and glee.

  It only got worse, each one of them adding all the more gruesome detail of their murderous fantasies. I felt sick to my stomach. I thought I might puke.  

My mother worked in the palace. My entire family was in Lumena, and… even if every word of what I’d learned about home was true, I couldn’t bear the thought of anything bad happening to any of them. 

“Pietro?” someone asked. “There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.” 

“L-later,” I said, not turning back. “I’m going to head to bed.” 

“I must insist.”

Realizing it was Legato, I stopped. “Dude. Dude. I…I can’t do this,” I blurted out, shaking my head. “I can’t… I can’t kill people. M-my own mom is–”

“Come with me,” Legato said, eyeing me coolly. “Let’s have a chat.”   

***

  Legato led me back to his clock room, each of them silent now in what was the wee hours of the morning back on Lumeria, although timeless in the dimensional divide. My mind was mostly absent from me, and I still felt all weird, like when you’re extra tired but can’t sleep, but also somehow worse, and stuck on the fact that I’d called Legato dude. He invited me in, and offered me some water in a seating area I hadn’t noticed when I was there before. It was surrounded on all sides by clocks itself and, much like his white coat, consisted of two pristine white leather couches and a small glass table between them, a transparent glass pitcher of water already sat out beside some picked, white flowers, a few pieces of paper, and a fancy, pocket-sized pewter looking glass.  

I needed the water. Between the panic of learning more about the pirates than I’d bargained for, and the additional concern that he might be about to kill me for what Quail and Kipley claimed to have seen that evening, I was sweating bullets. I finished my glass as soon as he poured it, and he filled it again. 

Legato slid the papers towards me. “First, I thought I might show you that your debt is now 75% paid.” 

My eyes bulged wide. “Already?” It had only been about two days.

The papers listed a transaction log. It looked official enough, covered in numbers and things I wouldn’t have understood any time, let alone then. There were three transactions posted: one, the initial debt, and two large payments, one of one hundred million, and the other an additional fifty million.  

“I owe you Jane’s life,” Legato said, taking a glass of water himself. “No amount could ever repay that.”  

I took the papers into my shaking, bandaged hands, unable to look away. Yeah, no amount, but fifty mil was close enough, I guess. 

“T-thank you,” I said, almost forgetting all my fear. “But I’m sorry, man, I… I don’t know if I can be part of this, if that’s what you all are after. The murdering and stuff.”

“Fair,” Legato said, taking a sip of water. “I don’t think I could either.” 

“And the scalp-wearing,” I added. “And the–”

“You… have never drank before, have you?” Legato asked, his fist beneath his chin. “Perhaps we should talk another time after all.”

I shook my head. “Oh, no. I’m good,” I said, though the mere act of shaking my head almost made me lose my balance. “So, uhm… how’s Jane?”

“She’s resting. She’ll probably need a few weeks to recuperate this time.” 

Weeks?” I blurted. “She looked fine to me… after she stopped being a tree.” 

Legato chuckled. “I’m afraid it’s not as simple as all that. The damage these incidents cause is, unfortunately, severe.”  

“What happened to Jane, anyways? Quail said she has a parasite… and Hart called her a weapon.”  

Legato sipped his water, slowly. “Hm. Jane is… a remarkable young woman, no? Isn’t that all that matters?”

“Well yeah, but…” I paused. “I’ve never seen anyone turn into a tree.” 

“And I hope you won’t again. It is terribly taxing on her. And as she’s grown, it’s only gotten stronger…”

“Yeah, Kipley told me she’s been here a long time.”

Legato locked eyes with me, appearing almost surprised at the mention. He cleared his throat. 

“Yes. I purchased her freedom from a trader when she was still in diapers. I’d hoped to find her family and reunite them, but… it doesn’t appear as if she has anywhere to go.” 

“Seems like she has a nice family right here. And she can be herself. I bet she’s really happy.”

Legato glanced away. “What about your family? Were they…accepting?”

“Yeah, for what they could be,” I said, resting back against the couch. “My sister acts all prim and proper but I can tell she cares, and so does my Mom. Duncan’s–my brother–he’s too young to really get any of it. And my Dad calls me the right name sometimes…”

“That could be interpreted as a rather low bar,” Legato said, smiling softly. “But I understand that on Lumeria, that is big.” 

“Yeah. They’re good people,” I muttered. “Not perfect but… they try.” 

“I imagine you must miss them terribly,” Legato said. “You know, if you want to go home, you certainly can. I don’t hold anyone against their will.”  

“It’s not that, it’s just…” I sighed. “I can’t handle hurting people like that, you know? That’s just…” 

“That’s not my goal, though I can’t make any promises about the crew.  I avoid violence at all costs.”

“Then why are…?”

“The only person I want out of the way is Luka,” Legato said, flatly. “I have no intention of harming anyone else–or even her, if she can be reasoned with. But I know she can’t.” 

I’d never heard anyone call Her Majesty by her name alone before. “But why kill her?” 

“Killing her is actually a second choice. I would prefer to simply replace her.” 

“Replace her?”

“Yes, with the rightful heir to the throne.” 

For once, history class was coming in handy. I vaguely knew what Legato was speaking of. There had been some succession crisis when Her Majesty became Queen. The old King and Queen died without having a successor–or something–so the throne had gone to the closest living relative, a distant cousin. It was the first time in a long time something like that had happened, and the first time a single woman ruled over the Lumerian System without a husband. 

The way Legato looked at me, it was obvious he expected a reaction of sorts, like I was supposed to know something else, but my mind was… elsewhere. 

Mostly I was thinking that my stomach still didn’t feel great. Part of me was also still thinking about what Quail and Kipley said they saw. And about Jane. 

Glancing back I found Legato still watching me carefully, so I tried to pull my shit together long enough to string up some thoughts. What was it…? Something about the Queen or… the old Queen?

Then I had a lightbulb moment.  

The Old King and Queen did have children, but there were… problems with each of them. Most had died young, and those that didn’t had died in some kind of an accident alongside their mom. And the King…? He was dead too. 

“I thought they were all dead,” I said, flatly. “Like… for a long time, dead.” 

“Most are, yes. Princesses Liana and Eugenie passed in the fire, along with Her Majesty,” Legato said, seeming to linger on each of the names he mentioned. “Prince Lucien is still alive, as is Eliseo. The youngest princess, however… her body was never found.” 

“Lucasta–Princess Lucasta,” I said, realizing. “I remember hearing this. She died too, right?” 

“No one knows,” Legato said. “She would be sixteen now… the same age as you.”  

“Yeah, but I’m sure they would’ve found her by now. She’s gotta be dead.” 

“The real one could very well be.” 

“Then how are you gonna…” I paused, realization dawning on my face. “Oh.” 

Legato nodded, his features lifting along with mine. “Changing things on Lumeria is a fickle thing, Pietro. Revolution is preferable, yes–but any time the people rise up, the Corps put an end to it… and with the might Luka’s navies have acquired now, the best way to get rid of her is to beat them at their own game. If I were to just kill Luka, she’d be replaced by her sister, or another cousin. The best thing to do is to reset the course of history.”  

“Replace her with a fake,” I said. “A fake Lucasta.”  

“Precisely. A clever enough forgery that no one would ever know the difference. And perhaps, someone young and progressive enough to organically change things on her own, with a bit of guidance, of course.” He paused, and leaned in a bit closer. “You are a… plausible visible match.”

Shit. Maybe he was the drunk one, not me. “Bullshit,” I said, laughing outright.  

“For years, we’d planned for Jane to take on this role when the time was right, but… I’m afraid it’s much too dangerous for her, given her condition, and disguising her wouldn’t be terribly easy,” Legato said, sighing. “And I must admit, I can’t risk losing her…”

Oh shit. He was serious? I jerked back in my seat. “Y-you’re joking. I mean you can’t be…crazy. That’s crazy.” 

Or maybe I was crazy. Or maybe alcohol makes you imagine things that aren’t really happening. Or… 

Just when I was struggling to wrap my mind around if what was happening was really happening, my eyes gave me another reason to think that maybe my brain had left the building for real this time. The looking glass on the table began to rattle and shake like it was possessed, until suddenly, Jane came flying out of it.  

I rubbed my eyes. Fuck, was I hallucinating? I don’t remember them mentioning alcohol making you do that in health class. FUCK. What if it was a hologram? Yeah. A hologram.   

Jane was drenched in sweat, her hair knotted and messy, and her usual fashionable clothes replaced with a fluffy teal bathrobe with cats on it. For a hologram, she was pretty detailed. 

 “Yes you can!” Jane shouted. She had to prop herself up on the arm of the couch. “Don’t you dare take this from me!”

Legato snapped to his feet, his entire demeanor changing in an instant. He folded his arms across his chest as if to scold her. “You shouldn’t be up, young lady,” he said, sounding a lot like my own father.

“I–I can deal. I want this!” Jane retorted. 

I rubbed my eyes again. Yep. Still there. And Legato saw her, too, which was a plus. 

Legato sighed, exasperated. “I’m sorry, Jane. Pietro is a better fit.”  

“Why, cause they have the right genitals?” Jane rolled her eyes, then pointed at me. “They wouldn’t even appreciate being a Princess!” 

I was wearing socks and sandals again, along with some old flannel, plaid pajamas Jack let me borrow. I shifted, trying to hide myself.  

“She’s right about that…” I said. “I would hate wearing all those dresses.” 

See?” Jane said, pointing again. “I can’t believe you’d rather have some stranger do this than me!” 

“Jane,” Legato said, darkly. “Be reasonable. You know this is for the best. And it has little to do with genitals and everything to do with–” 

“Hmph!” she muttered, giving me a stink eye. “Fine, I don’t care. You just do whatever you want!” she said, grabbing the looking glass off the table. She fiddled around with it in her hand–I didn’t catch exactly what she did–and then looked into it. One glance and it sucked her back in, from wherever she came.  

Nervous laughter fell out of me. “What the fuck?” I managed in a whisper, still cracking up. “Holy shit.” 

Completely at a frustrated loss, a look I recognized from my own parents, Legato sat there a moment pinching the bridge of his nose. “Wait here a moment, please,” he said. “I should have a word with her.” 

“Oh, fine,” I said, the laughter still coming. “You just… you gonna use the door, or…?”

A bemused chuckle escaped Legato. He must’ve realized what I’d seen was strange for me. “It’s a teleporter mirror, Pietro. From before your time.”

Ah, a personal teleporter. Maybe I wasn’t going crazy. They were an old-timey thing, something my grandparents might’ve used. They were made out of the same stones that power the interdimensional travel engines in diships, but they’d long since gone the way of the dodo. They were expensive and burned up after a few uses, so most people didn’t care for them as a way of travel. Worse, it wasn’t like jumping dimensions on a ship — your body was just out there, in the thick of things. Most people who did it got super sick, sicker than I felt now… the mere thought of it made my stomach turn. 

“Do consider my offer,” Legato said, and grabbed the mirror himself. “I’ll be right back.” One look and just like Jane, he was gone in an instant. 

His offer? Oh. Right. His offer. Fuck. That was real, too. 

Pretending to be a princess was probably right up there in the wildest dreams of a lot of people–Jane included–but the thought disgusted me. I never met a princess, but I went to school with a bunch of senator’s daughters and that must’ve been the next worst thing. Each one of them were the most plastic, awful people, and I was… not that. Not any of that. I wasn’t even a girl, for fuck’s sake, let alone the type of girly girl to do… this. And even if this crazy plan came to fruition, what would happen when I was found out? Or even worse, what if I wasn’t? What if I just had to live the rest of my life that way? Being surrounded by piles of riches might be nice but… at what cost?

Legato emerged from the mirror not long after. “Well?” he asked, taking his seat. “What do you think?” 

“Hell no,” I said flatly. “Just let Jane do it if she wants it that bad.” 

“I’m afraid Jane isn’t a good candidate. For all the reasons I’ve mentioned, yes, and… her build, her species…and indeed, if anyone were to find out she was assigned male at birth, well…that’s a trauma I can’t risk her enduring,” Legato paused. “I can make it worth your while, you know. Name any price.” 

“It’s not that, it’s…” I trailed off, tempted to ask how much he had to offer. “I can’t live like that forever. I want to go home — to be with my family.” 

“We can work with that. You be Lucasta just long enough to rouse the people, perhaps get on the throne–then I can find someone else to take over, and you can go home. I’ll pay your debt and give you ten times that amount.”

Tempting, but I wasn’t convinced yet. “What if someone finds out?”

“Only me, Jane, Quail and Kipley know,” Legato said. “And no one else will.” 

“But what if someone finds out?” I asked again.

“Then you might be killed.” 

“See? That’s not okay. I don’t wanna die — let alone in a fucking dress.” 

“We’ll do everything we can to protect you,” Legato said. “I swear that to you on my life.” 

“I don’t know…” I said, hesitantly. “It’s just…” 

“You could help change things, you know — change things in the most direct way. My crew can go back and forth with the Corps all across the galaxy, but nothing will change unless we can change the heart of Lumeria. You’ve seen it for yourself, Pietro — and you yourself can fix it.” 

Twenty hundred-million lux did sound rather appealing. I could pay my parents back several times over with that money, and send Portia to any college she wanted to go to — and Duncan, too, if that turned out to be his thing down the line. With the leftovers I could live a comfortable life, even if none of them wanted anything to do with me anymore. I could buy my own ship and sail off wherever I wanted, maybe find some place somewhere else where it would be a little easier to be like me… 

….provided I didn’t die in the process.    

The death part was the sticking point for me. And being a princess in general… it made my stomach turn. I’d just ruined my life and ran away into the abyss with some space pirates to avoid being all girly and to grow my hair out and do whatever I wanted. Why the heck would I ruin it all again by doing that? 

“I just can’t,” I said, shaking my head. “I’m sorry.” 

“Take some time to consider the offer, Pietro,” Legato said. “As much as you need, within reason of course.” 

“Sure,” I said, but my mind was made up. “That all you wanted to talk about?”

“Indeed. You’re free to go,” Legato said, resting back on his couch. “Though Pietro? I recommend drinking a lot of water before bed.” 

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