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Her Majesty's Guide To The Universe

Chapter Text

The first lawyer appeared in the middle of the night. Three o'clock, when every person in the house from the early risers to the late stragglers was in bed, and no one should've been awake. Jupiter awoke to a faint hum and a pale blue light.

"Blrf," she said, or something much like it, and grabbed for the holdout pistol Captain Tsing had sent her home with; it lived under her mattress, where certain nosy relatives were unlikely to find it, or shoot themselves with it. Jupiter was busy regretting stuffing it quite so far under her mattress when the white-faced man in the center of the room smiled brilliantly at her.

"Good evening, your majesty," he said. "This is your official notice of a summons being served on behalf of the primarch of the Salvaridis family, regarding the contested sections of the will of Lord Balem, former primary of the Abrasax family, now presumed deceased. Do you have a statement for the record?"

"Get out of my house," Jupiter hissed. "And keep your voice down." Her aunt turned in the bed, and Jupiter lowered her voice further. "Get off my planet."

"Your statement has been entered into the record," said the man, who reminded her of Advocate Bob in about the same way an orca reminded her of a happy cartoon seal. Built for a similar environment, on a much more vicious design. "Thank you for your time, your majesty. I will not remain in your territory any longer than the time allotted for summons by the standard code." He set a sheave down on the ground in front of her, and walked away.

His smile hadn't changed position once in the entire process.

#

The second lawyer was another one of those robot-type people, as perfectly golden as the first one had been porcelain white. She crouched down beside the bathtub Jupiter was scrubbing, and held out a sheave. "Good morning, your majesty. It is absolutely imperative that you acknowledge receipt of this document."

Jupiter sat back on her heels, and pointed the brush at the lawyer. "What are you doing here? Can't you leave these things with my people for this?" She hadn't given much thought yet to her people--too much to think about already--but presumably she had some. People for these sorts of things. The Queen of England didn't have to take court summons from lawyers in person, right? Surely.

"As you have not designated an official representative for such matters," the woman said pleasantly, "you must accept the summons in person." She tapped the sheave until it displayed a circle the size of the mark on Jupiter's arm. "Please confirm your receipt here."

"Jupiter!" Her mother strode into the bathroom. "Have you seen--"

#

"We can't keep wiping my family's memories every time something happens," Jupiter said.

Caine waited. For her to say more, presumably, and it was one of those sinking moments when she realized that this was something that needed explanation, and not, as she might've thought, a statement that could stand alone.

"Because it's going to give them--brain damage, or something! What happens if you wipe someone's memory every five days? Are there studies on that?"

"There aren't any major side-effects," Caine said, in what was probably meant to be a reassuring voice. He was not good at reassuring voices. Many types of reassurance, yes, mostly involving dramatic physical movement and holding onto her and standing in the way of violence, all of which she liked plenty, but the kind of reassurance where after the explanation of this wild, wide reality she felt better than she had before? Not so much.

She paced to the edge of the skyscraper roof. Then right off the edge. That still gave her a buzz, after weeks of practice. It was like traveling into orbit without all the inconvenient side-effects. Gravity wasn't her problem if she didn't want it to be. "It doesn't seem right," she said. "Not to disrupt their lives, not to keep them in the dark. I need to decide--"

The maintenance door at the top of the building banged open, and a man in a janitor's uniform came huffing out, hands to his knees as he caught his breath. Caine stepped between that man and Jupiter; she dropped quickly back to the rooftop, turning her boots off. Nothing to see here, no reason to wipe another person's memory today.

"Hey! You can't be up here, man," the janitor said. He stood up, drawing in a heavy breath. "This is restricted area. Go canoodle somewhere else, okay?"

Jupiter mouthed canoodle at Caine, who shrugged back to her. He didn't spend time being baffled by anyone. Or by surprises in general. If it wasn't going to try to kill, kidnap, or kiss her, he could stand back and let Her Majesty deal with it. (She wasn't entirely sure on the last one, either. Maybe that was royal prerogative? Something to ask about when it wouldn't be awkward, if there was such a thing as non-awkward time to ask about that.) "We'll get moving," Caine said. After all, one rooftop was as good as the next.

"You really shouldn't be up here," the janitor said. Sweat rolled down his neck into his collar. "You should move downstairs before someone gets hurt."

Caine's eyes narrowed, as something about the man had him scenting more than inconvenient interruptions. And that was when the shooting started.

#

Fact: Jupiter Jones remembered to turn on her anti-gravity boots, which was a good way to not plummet off the side of the building as a chunk of the rooftop disintegrated beneath her feet.

Fact: Caine Wise was fast with a shield, that blue sheen flung up between her and incoming danger before she had quite registered what the danger was.

Fact: The janitor's illusion vanished, and a wiry gray creature revealed in his place launched itself, snarling, at the enemy.

Fact: The enemy was still all but invisible: a mirage-glimmer, a haze in the area, that hurled deadly energy at her.

Fact: Jupiter began to understand the concept of combat flashbacks, and her throat seized up in a wash of not again even as she ducked behind the cover Caine is providing, as she hurled herself into the opened side of the building, as he shot back at whatever was trying to kill her, as she landed on the ordinary floor of a top-story open plan office in which people were screaming and running, as she ran with them.

Fact: Herd immunity works better with vaccines than bullets: two office workers crumpled to the ground, bleeding, at her left side.

Fact: Jupiter Jones, owner of the Earth, could do nothing about any of this except keep running.

#

Three stories down, she spun around another turn in the stairwell to find a half dozen grays staring right at her. She couldn't draw a gun so fast as Caine, but she had hers out and aimed at the group a fraction of a breath before they lunged.

Right past her, streaming around and past and over, those scrawny gray legs leaping over her like she was the star in a nature documentary about really weird gazelle, and up the stairs. She spun around, her gun still out, and saw the grays swarming--someone. Someone who looked mostly human, as best she could see through the dogfight of skinny limbs and snarling, with a weapon one of the grays wrenched out of that human's hands.

Jupiter backed down three more stairs. The grays were winning, and she didn't know which side they were on.

"If it's not too much of an intrusion, your majesty," said a voice behind her.

Jupiter spun around and pulled the trigger.

"Fuck," she said, and, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to," and then, "What the hell do you want?" The lawyer stood there in a perfect suit, exactly like the one the advocate had worn when he led her through that nigh-endless bureaucracy, but several cuts more expensive. This one was androgynous, elfin, a blue-tinged white that reflected the florescent lights of the stairwell into strange patterns across its skin.

It gently pushed the shot portion of its jaw back into place. "Your majesty," it said, as if there weren't explosions overhead and screams below and a pack of grays pulling apart someone not six feet away from them, "I'm very sorry to interrupt you at a time like this, but your signature on this form is absolutely vital to the proceeding of the litigation at hand."

"Did you send these people?" Jupiter asked, because it was the only question she could think of that made sense. She had a robot lawyer at gunpoint and the grays were attacking someone else. Sense was not building up in significant heaps at that moment.

"Certainly not! Direct action against a fellow Entitled without proper feud-filing would be quite irregular," said the lawyer. It drew itself up to its full height, which was still at least four inches shorter than Jupiter. Not counting that it stood two stairs down, at that. "The Salvaridis family never takes action against any other family without all the papers being in order. However, if you do not accept the summons, the Department of Punitive Measures will be forced to note this against you when the case goes to court."

"What case? What court? What--" Jupiter ducked. The lawyer did not, and so lost a few strands of hair as the wall behind them fell away. "What are you even here for?"

"To deliver the summons," said the lawyer, as even as before. Three grays skittered past them, pressing against the far side of the stairwell to avoid bumping into android or flustered Entitled. "Will you accept it this time?"

The grays launched themselves out of the opened wall at a blurred space. That blur shot one of them down; the other two landed, and clawed at what rapidly revealed itself to be someone with a feline face snarling from the inside of a tiny spaceship, not much bigger than its pilot and bristling with guns.

"Does accepting get me less shot?" Jupiter yelled, and ran down the stairs before more of the architecture could fall away.

"That's not within the scope of this set of paperwork," the lawyer said, voice full of infinite regret, and followed her.

#

Caine caught up with Jupiter six stories down, with a bloody stripe across one shoulder and that air of distress that evaporated the moment he saw she was safe. "Mercenaries," he said. "But you're safe--"

"Except I can't get rid of this lawyer!" Jupiter was still trying to catch her breath. She caught it a little faster when Caine's gun turned immediately towards the android, who was still busying trying to plaster its hair back into order. "Don't shoot the lawyer. I think it's a lawyer. It hasn't--tried to kill me. Personally."

He lowered his weapon. Slightly. It was the angle that said he could still take out a leg, if it came to that. "How are you?" That was business, as much as it was personal concern.

"Alive," she said, and tried on a smile. "Nothing hit me. Good work." She took a breath before she could start babbling inanities. "Do we know who sent those people to kill me?"

"Not yet," Caine said. He was still watching the lawyer. Which meant he thought it was a potential threat, or at least distasteful, whatever she might have said.

"How likely is it that the people starting some kind of legal case against me also want to kill me?"

"You're Entitled, your majesty," Caine said. "All sorts of people will want to kill you."

"Right," she said. "Okay." She turned towards the lawyer, and smiled. Or bared her teeth at it. One of the two. "Would you explain the summons to me, and exactly what it means?"