Chapter Twenty-Two



Wednesday the First

Lunar 4, Luka 16

Port Helsingin 

Bayside Senate Building – Courtyard 

Eddy served as my primary protector from the crowds, ensuring I suffered no more than a few minutes of photographs and the shouts of paparazzi and newscasters before she whisked me back within the building and, seeing that I was once again starting to lose my shit, into a secluded internal courtyard to get away from any prying eyes. I crouched down on the ground, holding my hands behind my neck, almost struggling to breathe from panic. I ripped off the tiara and tossed it down beside me, along with the trident. Eddy fawned over them like they were some kind of priceless heirlooms (which they probably were), checking to make sure they were intact before she came to console me. 

“Don’t worry, Your Highness. We don’t have to go back out there,” she said, affectionately brushing my hair behind my ear, and rubbing my back. “The media are dreadful — just dreadful — I imagine more so after all you’ve been through…”

“I–I want to see my parents,” I managed. 

Eddy gasped as if she’d seen a ghost. “M-my darling, they’ve long since–”

“No. My parents. On Lumeria,” I said again. “The Queen said they’re–”

“Oh, goodness me! Those people?!” Eddy was agog. “What could you possibly want with–”

“Please. Please take me there,” I said, dissolving once again into tears. “I’m begging you, please.”

“I suppose we could stop by there, if it’s that important to you…” Eddy pursed her lip, uncomfortable with the idea. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather go home first? Perhaps freshen up a bit…?” 

“No. Now,” I said. “I have to go now. I… I… I have to.” 

“Of course, Your Highness.” Eddy pulled a phone from her blouse pocket. “Let me just inform our pilot…” 

“C-can you call me something else?” I asked. “Anything else.”

Eddy smiled. “Ah. I imagine that would be a difficult adjustment… well, what would you like for me to call you?”

Petra. Pietro. Lucasta. I had so many names now I didn’t know which one to use. Tears filled my eyes again at the very question, my throat tight and hot. Eddy rubbed my back again.

“When you were little, we called you Lulu, or Louie,” Eddy said. “Would you like one of those?”

 I nodded. Anything but Your Highness. “Sure. You can call me whatever you want. I… I don’t mind. Really. Just not… that.” 

Eddy and I escaped up to the Senate Building’s roof, where there was a large helipad dotted with several small cruisers belonging to the royal fleet. Several had already departed or were departing now, apparently with the Queen among them. We had to wait as several identical decoys took off, too, so as to deter any wrongdoing. Eddy chatted up with some security guard, too, while I gazed off into the greater city of Helsingin. In the distance, there were fireworks shooting off even though it was still morning time, and the streets were full of people running about. The whole galaxy was celebrating a miracle while my old life was eroding into nothingness…

All I could think about was my parents, and my brother and sister. 

My heart ached. It was a Wednesday which meant that they had school. The two of them would’ve gone home to find an empty house, not knowing that Mom and Dad wouldn’t be back… or why. My greatest fear was knowing that somewhere on Lumeria, right then, a Bot was probably poking holes in each of my parents’ wrists, marking them for life just like I had been… only, in their case, they hadn’t even done anything to deserve it. 

ψ ψ ψ

We arrived on Lumeria in the evening, touching down to amber skies over Lumena, one sun set and the other following close behind. Again we landed on the roof of a building and were led down. Unlike the Central Booking area where I’d been before, we were downtown, now, at one of the larger sites where more severe cases are handled. Eddy spoke to someone and explained the situation. The Corpsmen there saluted me awkwardly at first, before Eddy instructed them that the proper greeting was to bow. Not knowing any better, I bowed back before Eddy took the superior officer aside for a chat. It didn’t look like their conversation was going well. 

Eddy bowed at me when she came back. “Unfortunately it seems the Fenns are still being interrogated,” she said. “We’ll have to come back another time.”      

I couldn’t hide my disappointment. “Are you sure? We can’t wait?”

Eddy shook her head. “Perhaps it’s for the best. I can’t imagine you’d even want to see those people again.”   

My face grew red. “They’re not bad people,” I said. “I don’t think any of it was… on purpose. Maybe there was a mistake. An accident. Maybe they…they really are innocent.” 

Eddy nodded along as I spoke, though the doubt in her eyes spoke volumes. “Perhaps, my dear,” she said, glancing away. “Well, regardless… the Corpsmen are having some difficulties accommodating the Fenn’s children.” 

“Wait, what?” My eyes boggled. “They’re here? Portia and Duncan?”

Eddy nodded. “Why, yes.”

“Where?” I demanded. “I need to see them.”

The thought that I’d like to apparently hadn’t occurred to Eddy. “Oh, yes, of course. Follow me.”  

Eddy led me past the primary booking area and back into an L-shaped office with a kitchen inside it, likely the break room for the people who worked there. In two chairs sitting there too, were two faces I was shocked to see — Portia and Duncan. The two of them were just sitting there, given little more than a can of soda each to drink while they waited for what appeared to have been some time. The three of us made eye contact, all locking on each other. No one moved at first.

Wordlessly I ran to them and threw my arms around both of them, and all three of us began to cry once again. I might have suffocated the both of them with how hard I hugged them, wailing all the while. Snot was running all down Duncan’s face, and he didn’t care to clean it up one bit. 

“Petra! Petra!” he cried. “Oh, I was so scared, Petra. I’ve missed you so much!”

I crouched down to give him an even bigger hug. He was almost as tall as me so I didn’t need to, but it was a force of habit. I hadn’t seen him this upset since he was quite small. 

Portia hugged me once again when I got back to my feet, but by then, her relief had melted away into disbelief and sorrow. Her mouth looked like she wanted to speak, but was at such a loss she could hardly make words anymore. 

Her lip trembled. “What’s happening, Petra?” she asked. “What’s…all of this?”  

Eddy cleared her throat, having been watching us the whole time. “The authorities have been trying to get in touch with relatives,” Eddy said, a clipboard wedged between her and her side. “I’m afraid no one has picked up.” 

“They’re coming with me,” I said, without looking back to her at first. “And they can stay with me, too.”

Eddy covered her mouth with her hand, surprised. “Are you sure that’s appropriate, Your–”

“Of course it is!” I barked at her, offended she’d even suggest otherwise, regardless of what she might have been told.

 “Y-yes. Understood,” she said. “I suppose we’ll need a larger cruiser…” 

“Where are we going?” Portia asked. “I…I don’t know where you live now, and…we have school in the morning.” 

“Just the Palace at Lumena,” Eddy said, unbothered. “And we can take care of that, miss…?”   

“Portia. Portia Fenn,” Portia said, with a curtsey. “And this is my brother, Duncan.” 

Duncan waved, but didn’t speak. 

“We also need to stop back home,” I said. “At our parents’ house.” 

“Right,” Eddy said, tapping her clipboard. The additional disruption clearly bothered her. “I suppose we can make that work, too…”

“And if you can give us a minute?” I asked. “A minute alone?”

Flustered but ever-dutiful, Eddy agreed, and bowed as she graciously walked back out of the room. “We’ll just be out here if you need anything, Your Highness.”

The three of us stood there dead silent when she left, no one sure what to say. Portia and Duncan were waiting for me to be the one to start, clearly, but I didn’t know what to tell them–or what to say. 

“This is real, isn’t it?” Portia eventually asked, with a gulp. “This isn’t just some… scheme of yours?”

“No. It’s not,” I lied, shaking my head. “I didn’t plan for any of this, but…I guess it is real.”

“You ran away a few weeks ago and now you’re…” Portia shook her head. “Gods, it doesn’t make sense.”

I pulled her into another hug and let her wail into my chest. She yanked away, covering her face with her hands. “Good Gods. Then you’re not even…” she stopped herself, covering her face. 

She was right. I wasn’t even her sister. Not anymore. Not really. Never was.  

“Do you think Mom and Dad really kidnapped you?” Duncan asked. 

I shook my head fiercely. “No. Not at all. I think it was a mistake. An accident,” I said, looking between both of them. “And I’m going to help them prove it–I promise.”  

Just then by the other door, the one I hadn’t come through, I noticed a shuffle in the light outside, what looked like footsteps, and sounded like the peeping whispers of someone trying to listen in on us. More paparazzi? I thought, rage boiling up down in me. Now? 

“Wait here a second,” I muttered, poised to give whoever it was a piece of my mind. 

Don’t get me wrong–I am personally willing to suffer almost any indignity. Dresses? Cool. Fake princess? Whatever. But come after Portia or Duncan, or worse, both of them? On the worst day of our lives? Not a good idea.  

I threw open the door. “Hey!” I shouted, my voice still a bit belabored with emotion, though a glint of anger coming through, too. “Who’s there?”

But no one was there. It was just a tile hallway, full of closed doors, with curtains at the windows spaced every now and then. And then one of them began to move.

“Just us,” Kipley said, revealing herself from behind one of the curtains. 

Quail groaned. “Dang it, Kipley.” 

Anger swelled in me at the sight of them. I closed the door behind me, to protect the others. 

“Y-you leave me alone,” I said, pointing a finger at them. I didn’t mean to whisper, but my voice came out low, quiet, almost feral. “I… I don’t want to see you or any of you ever again.” 

“Thought she might say that,” Quail muttered. “You got it?”

Kipley nodded, holding up a pewter hand mirror. “Oh yeah, ready spaghetti.” 

I actually laughed. “Gods, you two really are just insane, aren’t you? Did you know about him? Who he actually is? What he actually… wants?”

Kipley and Quail exchanged a glance. 

“Let’s take a walk, shall we?” Quail asked. “Promise you’ll be back in five.” 

I took a few steps back. “No. No. I’m not going anywhere with you, ever–”

Kipley chucked the mirror at me before I could finish, and I felt myself rip through a very dark, strange place.


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