Sunday the 15th,
Lunar 3, Luka 16
Somewhere in the Dimensional Divide
Onboard the Neptune’s Rhapsody
The Captain’s Quarters
Once we were up and sailing, I asked Quail and Kipley to get the boss for me. Truth was, I had a decision before we got back to the ship. The four of us met up in his quarters, where all of the clocks were running quietly in the background. That same lonely stalk of white flowers remained on the table, its bell-shaped blooms beginning to wilt.
“I want to do this,” I said confidently. “I want to be your princess.”
Quail and Kipley exchanged a high-five. Legato did not share their excitement, despite him trying to convince me not two days earlier. Now he seemed skeptical, grave.
“Tell me why,” he said, watching me closely. “You were so against it before.”
“I’ve seen enough. I… I can’t take it,” I stammered. “If I can do something, I…I want to do it.”
Legato held his chin, deep in thought. “And you realize how big this commitment is?”
“You can’t back out of this, Pietro,” Quail said. “Once you’re in, you’re in.”
“And it might be rather dangerous,” Kipley added, pointer finger raised. “Just a tad.”
“More than a tad. You could very well die,” Legato corrected.
Quail dragged a finger across his neck. “Die, in a dress!”
Sheesh. Were they really trying to talk me out of it, after all that? I tried to read their faces, but the lot of them were serious — even Kipley. A subdued silence filled the air.
Dying. Dying in a dress.
With what my reality was, every now and again I stopped to think about what would happen to me once I was gone, dark as that might be. I imagined myself sent off to sea on a burial ship in a white shroud, my hair cut short from the public viewing. On shore I’d be commemorated with a stoneship cenotaph inscribed with the name ‘Petra Fenn’ by any family that outlived me. Any distant descendants I might have would light incense and leave flowers for me generations after I was gone, all to the wrong name, to a person that never existed. My truth would die with me, descend into the depths with me. No one would ever know who I was or had been. That thought scared me more than any other part of dying, you know? Being erased?
If I committed to this lie with the pirates, there was a chance my future might be different. Not just mine, either. Things would be different for everyone with those same fears.
Legato cleared his throat, breaking the silence. “In all seriousness, I need you to think critically on the gender aspect, Pietro. If this works, the entire galaxy will know you as a girl. You might have to put up with things you don’t like–things much worse than what brought you to us.”
“And you probs can’t be a tomboy, either. You’d have to be like, a really girly girl,” Kipley added. “Peak Lumerian rich bitch.”
I grimaced. “Eugh, why?”
“Because you’ll be under a lot of scrutiny,” Quail explained. “Birthright or not, Luka and her lackeys will stop it nothing to prevent her getting the boot — and they’ll find any way they can to discredit you.”
“Your life won’t be yours anymore. It might not be again for a long time. It could get very, very ugly along the lines,” Legato said. “We’ll do everything we can to guarantee your safety, but I can’t make any promises.”
“But it’ll be like you said, right?” I asked. “I’ll just do this long enough to get… the crown?”
“That’s my hope, yes,” Legato said, holding a fist underneath his chin. “The provisions The Senate and the former King left on this issue are very clear. Luka would have no choice but to abdicate. Granted, I have no idea how prompt the transition of power would be…”
“And you can bet they’ll try to stall it,” Quail said flatly. “Probably at least a few weeks or months, even.”
Legato nodded. “Precisely, which is why all we can give you is our word.”
“That’s fine with me,” I said, still convinced. “I mean it. I’m ready.”
Legato exchanged a glance with both Quail and Kipley. “And I presume you two are completely on board with this?”
Both Quail and Kipley were giddy at the idea, exchanging a hug.
“I knew you’d come through!” Kipley said, grinning at me. “I just knew it.”
“Then we’ll set sound ground rules,” Legato said, glancing between the three of us. “Only the four of us — plus Jane — will know. The rest of the crew has to remain in the dark.”
“All of them?” Kipley asked, furrowing a disappointed lip.
“I’m afraid it’s too risky,” Legato said, sighing into his hand. “They’re pirates. They mean well, but they can be bought.”
Quail appeared to consider it, tapping his chin. “Good point.”
“It really wouldn’t even take much,” Kipley said. Quail elbowed her. “What? Money is nice.”
“We’ll also have to make some physical alterations,” Legato said, looking me up and down. “Until your scalp heals you’ll need some extensions to hide the injuries–not too long, mind you—but we can’t have you out there looking like that. For now, we’ll get you fitted for a wig. And Lucasta had a birthmark, so…”
“I get to stab you,” Quail said. “Don’t worry, I’ve had practice.”
“Gee, great,” I muttered. “Anything else?”
“There is one thing,” Legato said, looking me dead in the eyes. “We’ll provide you with everything you need. Your backstory, any and all help along the way, money, security — anything and everything. The only thing is that you absolutely cannot contact any of your family or friends on Lumeria.” I froze, for the first time feeling a hint of hesitation. “It’s for your protection, and theirs. If any contact can be traced, there’s a chance your birth identity could get out, and that would be disastrous for you and your family.”
“So I can’t go home at all?” I asked. “For how long?”
“I don’t know,” Legato said. “It could be a long time. Weeks, months… maybe even years.”
Years away from home? If I had let that thought enter my head a few weeks ago when I first followed Jane here, I would’ve never made it this far. Even months felt too long, and weeks…
But I needed to do this, and I could do this. I just had to take it one day at a time.
“Well, I have to tell them something. Even if it’s not the truth,” I said. “What if they come looking for me?”
“Also a fair point,” Kipley said. “We should leave them a note…”
Quail laughed. “And how do you propose to do that?”
“We can stop by,” I said. All of them gawked at me. “What? I’d like a few of my things if this is going to be awhile…”
Legato shook his head. “Too risky,” he said, with some hesitation. “You can’t take any clothes or anything identifying — or leave anything identifying, either.”
“I wouldn’t,” I said. “I just want some… small things.”
“Anything you need I said we can get for you,” Legato said. “Anything. Clothes, all of that.”
“I want my pillow — my pillow, from my bed,” I said. “And my sheets, ones that smell like home. If I might die for you, the least you can do is let me sleep on my pillow.”
Legato could hardly argue with that. “I suppose that’s acceptable. Kipley, Quail, you can take them in the morning — but I want you back by breakfast.”