Wednesday the First
Lunar 4, Luka 16
The Dimensional Divide
Onboard the Neptune’s Rhapsody
I woke up on a grimy metal floor not long after thinking I’d fainted, the inexplicable scent of old oil, throbbing pipes and steam vents shaking beneath me. For a split second when I recognized the familiar steel bolts of the ship walls, I hoped it had all been just some awful nightmare…but it wasn’t. As my senses returned to me, I remembered those final moments — comforting Duncan and Portia, then seeing Quail and Kipley, that hallway. Those blubbering idiots had somehow teleported me through time and space, back to the ship.
I heard Quail speak. “Divine Lords, Kipley, you can’t just bruise her face like that.”
“Eh. We got concealer,” Kipley responded.
Throwing out my arms in front of me as if to defend myself, I scurried to a seated position. “W-what happened to me? Where am I?” I asked, breathing hard.
Quail extended an arm to help me up and, against my better judgement, I took it. “Back on the ship, but we’ve only got a minute or two,” he said, calm and cool as ever, and adjusted my tiara. “You have to calm down.”
“CALM DOWN!?” I shouted in his face, smacking him away. “Y-you calm down, you–”
“I take it you met Luka.” It was Legato. His voice surprised me, and my fins raised.
Before he could finish speaking–before I realized I’d even done it–I’d turned and punched him in his scar-covered cheek. Both Quail and Kipley leapt at me at once, holding me back. I dragged my heels, trying to get away, until I finally did, but Jane stepped out in front of him to protect him. I hadn’t even realized she was there.
“Don’t,” she said to me, a foreboding look in her eye. “Don’t make me.”
Out of anyone there, Jane could beat my ass. No matter how pissed I was at the universe and everyone in it, I knew I couldn’t make myself hit her to get to him. Instead, I reached over her shoulder, scowling and jumping like some rabid animal.
“That’s for my parents, you fuck!” I shouted at Legato again. “You… you absolute monster of a fuck.”
“Oh, would you knock it off?” Quail cried. “We are trying to HELP you.”
Legato rubbed his chin, his features raised, almost as if he were a bit impressed with my punch. “I’m not surprised you’re upset. This has easily become the worst case scenar–”
“WORST CASE? Worst case?” My voice was raw, like the breathy spit of pure fury. “You–you knew she was dead–you’re the one who KILLED her. And you did all of this to get back at your fucking cousin?! To clear your name? Be King yourself?”
Silence. No one said a word.
“Hardly,” Legato said eventually, completely disaffected. “I admit I haven’t been entirely honest with you about my past. The rest, however, was true.”
I burst into laughter. “Y-you just… forgot to mention you’re a motherfucking prince?”
“Former prince,” Legato said, without addressing my other point. “And I don’t intend to change that.”
I laughed–not a funny laugh, more the kind you make when you’re losing your mind, a bunch of shallow, breathy ones right after another. I looked between Jane, Quail and Kipley. The lot of them were serious and calm, perhaps a bit guilty.
“And you knew about this? Hm?” I asked them, lingering longest on Jane. She hid her face; that was answer enough for me. “And you didn’t tell me?”
“We didn’t know this would go so fast, Pietro,” Quail murmured, letting a hand hit his hip. “We planned to. We did. We had like, six years of no progress on this and then, bam, overnight it just… happened.”
“I didn’t realize it would be that important to you,” Legato said. “It changes nothing.”
“Oh, yeah right.” I rolled my eyes. “That whole ‘good of the galaxy and everyone in it’ line was total bullshit, wasn’t it? You’re just out to clear your own name, and my parents are… are…”
Legato was silent, watching me dissolve. Again the others shied away guiltily. Jane’s shoulders slumped and Kipley held her close, both of them looking like they might cry, but I didn’t care.
“You’re really gonna just take Luka’s word for it?” Kipley scoffed, her voice weak and breathy. “Why should you trust her?”
Quail elbowed her in the arm. “Kippers, not helping.”
“Well she had a point!” I barked at the two of them. “Not like he doesn’t have an awful lot to gain from getting The Queen out of the picture — like the rest of his family.”
“You’re right. It does look that way,” Legato said, still completely cool and collected. “But I assure you–”
“–I felt it, you know? In your head, that night? Lived it, saw it, everything–you were like some kind of rabid fucking monster, covered in…” I gulped, swallowing back a mess of snot and tears, so much anger in me I felt like I could burst. It still didn’t compare to an ounce of what I felt in that memory of his. “Oh, Gods… was that your mother? Or one of your… s-sisters?”
Maybe he knew all along that I’d seen it. Did he see this coming? The others must not have known the full details, or if they did, not the gory parts I did. They must have never felt his rage, or watched it through his own eyes.
Legato unbuttoned his top buttons, and untied his cravat. He tossed his coat down on the floor behind him, revealing the full extent of his scaring. He glanced down at them before looking between me, Jane, and the others.
“Everything you’ve learned about me is true. Every word–except one,” Legato said, still no rise out of him. “I did not kill Lucasta, and I believe no one did.”
“And I’m supposed to just believe you?” I huffed. “Fuck off.”
“Tell me: why do you think Luka did what she did?” Legato asked. “Based on the news reports that are coming out, it appears she’s come up with her own story for you — not sticking to the one we provided.” I didn’t know what he was getting at. “I take it that since she told you about me, that means she knows you’re not the real thing. And she’s implicated your parents — given the Worlds every reason to believe you are actually Lucasta. Instead of just outing you, or even just denying the claim or calling you false, she’s turned you into a pawn of her own. Would an innocent Queen with nothing to hide need to do such a thing?”
“She said it served her purposes,” I said, thinking back on it. “That people had doubted her.”
“I’ll leave you with that to think about that for yourself. Don’t let her fool you — she has her own agenda,” Legato said. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. I had planned to, I swear. It was just never the right time.”
I laughed again. “Yeah. Sure.”
“It’s time to send them back, Boss,” Quail said.
Legato nodded to him.
Jane took a few steps closer to me. “Pietro,” she tried to begin. “Listen, I’m so–”
“Don’t start,” I growled back at her. “Don’t say anything at all.”
Legato grabbed me by the shoulder. “Enough!” he said. I opened my mouth as if to protest, but Legato began at once. “Listen to me closely, Pietro: you have got to be very, very careful. We will be along soon to help you. I’m working on your parents. Trust Eddy. Her loyalties are to Lumeria, not the crown. Don’t trust anyone else and don’t ever—ever—let yourself be alone with the Queen, her Mother, or any of the Admirals. Accidents tend to happen to people who get in her way and there is no reason to believe you’ll be an exception.”
“Wait, what?” I began. “How do I even–”
Kipley chucked the mirror at me again. This time it hit me square in the middle of the neck, and I had that weird feeling again…
ψ ψ ψ
Instead of ending up on the ground this time, I slipped out of midair with a thud, and landed on my feet. The mirror fell beside me, resting on the floor. After taking a few seconds to get my wits about me, I stuck it down the front of my dress to hide it. It didn’t have any pockets, so it was the best I could do.
Everything was completely normal, just the same old hallway I left. I opened the door again to find Portia and Duncan still standing there in the same places they were, as if no time had passed at all.
“What was it?” Portia asked.
I clearly hadn’t been gone for long at all. “N-nothing,” I said, and closed it back behind me. “Just took a potty break.”