Cover Artist: cloudlake
— 42 (Earth) days after Kiza met Her Majesty Seraphi Abrasax —
Kiza sighed and gave up on getting anything else out of her books tonight. Her head was beginning to ache anyway, so it was probably just as well. She flipped through the textbook until she found the number she needed amidst the white noise of splicer sequences and equations and then dug her phone out of her bag.
Surely the emphatic use of three beers would convey to Her Majesty that Caine was getting very drunk; hopefully, Her Majesty would recall him and take on dealing with his grumpiness as he flushed the toxins from his body.
[From 312-xxx-yyyy] ????
Kiza sighed. She had been too restrained when she described the situation.
And they had gotten to the brawling part of their evening. She added an addendum to her previous message.
Kiza grabbed her phone and then went to the door. "Hey!" she shouted, careful not to wince at the effort. Caine and her dad stopped screwing around and looked at her.
"You okay?" her dad asked. "Do you need anything?"
"I'm fine, Dad," she said, deliberately keeping her face relaxed and her tone even, "but go further into the fields if you're going to keep destroying things. I'm trying to study." Okay, she had given up on trying to study, but getting some quiet would help her headache.
She carefully shut the screen door behind her and sprawled out on the couch, shoving the throw pillows off to the floor. It was glorious: just her and the quiet hum of the hive.
[From 312-xxx-yyyy] Wtf?
[To 312-xxx-yyyy] I found your lost puppy.
[From 312-xxx-yyyy] Stinger?
Kiza frowned at the screen. On what planet would her father be texting instead of paying attention to an upset Caine?
[From 312-xxx-yyyy] Kiza?
[To 312-xxx-yyyy] He's drinking all the Romulan ale, it's disturbing the hive.
She scrolled through her phone for a minute, looking for the file she wanted. She knew she wouldn't regret that visit to the feral sanctuary, no matter how much her father had dithered before allowing the trip.
[To 312-xxx-yyyy] [HOWL]
Kiza shivered. A lycanthrope's howl was unnerving, and she could see why the Academy had removed it from the lycantant strains, even over the protests of the entitled sponsoring the original splice line.
[From 312-xxx-yyyy] Romulans aren't real. Also, Caine's not a puppy.
[From 312-xxx-yyyy] and that's not him
[To 312-xxx-yyyy] might as well be him with all the angst he's giving off
[To 312-xxx-yyyy] also, star trek is hilarious, 10/10 drinking game
[From 312-xxx-yyyy] What's wrong with Caine?
What was wrong with Caine? Would you like that alphabetically or categorically, Your Majesty? Kiza liked the guy, but he was so turned around that he'd come up for termination more than once. He'd been lucky to find Her Majesty when he did -- Kiza knew that more than one Legionnaire had odds on him being shipped to a sanctuary before he'd found himself orbiting Her Majesty.
However, Her Majesty was probably referring to the catalyst for this reaction.
[To 312-xxx-yyyy] blah blah blah Her Majesty blah blah lost rank blah blah blah
[From 312-xxx-yyyy] ??? Does this have something to do with that stupid pissing match he got into with the lycantant Her Noble Snottiness Rideam brought along this morning?
Tercies. Maybe Kiza could dig out some of the primers her dad's splicer had given her before he'd been reassigned. The basic patterns and etiquette would be useful, even if Caine was atypical, and maybe it would keep Her Majesty from getting them all killed. By doing things like putting two lycantants in different hierarchies in a room and stopping their ritual pissing match.
[From 312-xxx-yyyy] I forbade the knives. And the claws and teeth. Nowhere in the Code of Conduct does it state that a knife fight is a prerequisite for diplomacy.
Well, that explained Caine's state when he showed up. He wouldn't try to explain to Her Majesty, not in front of Rideam Chthonios, but this was bad. Very bad.
[To 312-xxx-yyyy] Your Majesty, Caine is a lycantant brainwashed by Legion programming.
[To 312-xxx-yyyy] If you don't let them fight for their rank, they lose it, and then they get supplanted by the splice who beat them.
[To 312-xxx-yyyy] Stabbing's easy to fix, we have loads of regenex now.
Thank goodness, because the cost of Kiza's recode was only payable in premium grade. To have it be premium Abrasax halved the price. None of them had any idea why Calique was tithing her Head of House, but Kiza knew her dad had no qualms about drawing his salary from the tribute.
[To 312-xxx-yyyy] But if he loses rank, you're a target for everyone. If you don't let him do his job, you're a target for everyone. If you keep interfering with diplomatic relations, you're a target for everyone. You're going to get killed and the earth will end up in a hostile takeover. Calique if we're lucky and she's smart, but more likely someone from the Muštabarru.
[From 312-xxx-yyyy] There was nothing diplomatic about that, and I'm not building my reputation on Caine's blood and regenex.
Kiza decided being dramatic would give her great satisfaction, so she fished a pillow up from off the floor and covered her face, groaning into it. She then took a few deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.
[To 312-xxx-yyyy] You are an Abrasax. Figure out what you want and pick your lycantant up in the morning. Don't get us all killed in the meantime because someone figures out they can come and extract your seal.
Maybe they'd get lucky, and there would be enough warning that she and her dad could get off planet, first. She'd miss Caine, but he'd inevitably be in the middle of whatever disaster Her Majesty catalyzed.
— 42 + 1 (Earth) days after Kiza met Her Majesty Seraphi Abrasax —
Kiza shut her books emphatically. No one ever texted her, so this was definitely a sign that she should be done for the day.
[From 312-xxx-yyyy] Where do you get beer that can get Caine drunk?
Kiza smiled. Perhaps Her Majesty was willing to figure out enough to not get them all killed after all.
[To 312-xxx-yyyy] A wretched hive of scum and villainy, Your Majesty.
Also known as the Aegis supply ship, but Kiza suspected that few of the Aegis would contest the description.
[From 312-xxx-yyyy] Quit calling me Your Majesty.
Or perhaps she wasn't.
[To Her Majesty]
[From Her Majesty] It's different when he does.
Kiza rolled her eyes. Of course it was different when Caine did. He was Her Majesty's First Servitor -- everything he did would be different.
[From Her Majesty] Just call me Jupiter.
Kiza winced. Her Majesty Seraphi Abrasax was many things, but addressed by a tercie name was not one of them. One mistake and they'd never get rid of the Advocates.
[To Her Majesty]
[To Her Majesty] Calling you by the nomen of this recurrence would be a grave violation of protocol.
[From Her Majesty] It's my name. I am not a damn Abrasax.
[To Her Majesty] Have you read any of the Codes other than Conduct?
[From Her Majesty] ?
Kiza refrained from giving into her dramatic impulses this time. Her father was one room over, and she couldn't take his worry if he thought she were acting out of character. You'd think she'd never undergone a recode before and couldn't watch for her own warning signs of 'code-fail.
[To Her Majesty]
[From Her Majesty] If you know something useful, tell me.
Even if Kiza did give Her Majesty all of the primers they had in their possession, it wouldn't come close to being as comprehensive as whatever information the Abrasax House stored in their own Code. However, Her Majesty was an honored elder, and Kiza couldn't offer her own codices as a substitute; the splicing that created her genes was too new and too shallow. Her Majesty's own genome, the Abrasax codes, were essential.
[To Her Majesty] Your Majesty, if you could request a gene extractor from the Aegis, much would be clearer. They'll charge you a nominal fee to pull yours out of storage, but your house can absorb it.
Okay, usually the Aegis would tell an entitled exactly where they could go when they requested personal favors, usually accompanied by colorful insults to germ lines and toenails, but Tsing seemed to favor Her Majesty. Or, perhaps, owed Seraphi Abrasax for some terrifying reason that Kiza didn't want to contemplate.
[From Her Majesty] What would I do with a gene extractor?
[To Her Majesty] ??
[To Her Majesty] It's a gene extractor.
[To Her Majesty] You would read your genome.
[To Her Majesty] It has the Codes you need.
[From Her Majesty] Codes. As in Code of Conduct?
Kiza starts the kettle and pulls the lavender out of the cabinet. If she's got to explain this to Seraphi fucking Abrasax, she needs something soothing. No one ever said that dealing with recurrences was easy, but she'd never heard that it was absurd.
[To Her Majesty] That's not the only Code you need to know, and the Codes of the entitled are part of them.
[From Her Majesty] Right.
[From Her Majesty] Caine says you can help me with the gene extractor. Could you?
[To Her Majesty]
Kiza cracked back open her books. If she was going to help read an Abrasax's genome, she needed to cram all the information into her head that she could.
— 77 days since Jupiter Jones' life became a sci-fi movie, on a spaceship —
Jupiter sat very, very straight as she typed notes on the tablet Captain Tsing had given her. Taking her own notes during a meeting with the Right Reverent Rideam of the Chthonios, she of the perfectly gleaming teeth and melodious voice, was undoubtedly not done. It was sure to be a breach of some obscure point of protocol, a sign of unforgivable weakness, or, at the least, considered extremely gauche. However, Jupiter was going to wring every bit of grace she could from the traditional transition period of newly-identified recurrences.
(Tsing had told her that there had never been a recurrence from a House such as the Abrasax. Jupiter wasn't sure if that's because every potential recurrence mysteriously died prior to confirmation or because none of the members had ever died. She didn't ask.)
She tapped open the messenger program, glad that some things appeared to be universal. She had yet to encounter a device that didn't have something she could use as a chat program, no matter how black and shiny the screen was.
[To Kiza] Hey,
Eventually, Jupiter was going to get used to Kiza's habit of communicating in emoji. Today was probably not that day.
[To Kiza] Good morning?
However, she was getting better at interpreting them. The look Caine had given her as he slowly translated dirty limericks from Kiza made her determined to figure it out herself.
(Admittedly, that had led to a very enjoyable afternoon.)
Even if she did have to use the question mark a lot.
[To Kiza] We're on a ship — do we even have mornings?
[From Kiza] Given the brisk business in stims the commissary is currently doing, survey says yes.
Jupiter thought longingly of coffee. She and Caine had just found a ridiculous hipster place that didn't blink when he came in wearing a trench coat, and he was adorable when he was buying her all the pastries she could eat. A pastry would be delicious. Or a latte.
Or, really, anything other than Rideam's chancellor droning on and reciting the lineage of Rideam and her House from time immemorial. Which would be followed by Gemma, on temporary duty seconding Jupiter, doing the same for the Abrasax House and Jupiter's own lineage. (Which was, surprisingly, much longer than the Abrasaxes. She didn't know much about her father, but her mother's family was loud, large, and well-documented for several generations. The Abrasaxes stopped at two.)
At least it gave her time to review the day's agenda and proposals. Rideam's chancellor was on the 3rd generation when something caught her eye.
[To Kiza] Rideam's currently offering her chariot for two hours of Caine's time. What am I missing?
[From Kiza] What's the chariot's lineage?
[To Kiza] It's a chariot -- I assume some sort of inanimate structure with something wood-like and metal-like, but I have a feeling you're about to tell me something horrible.
Why was Kiza sending her images of animals? As far as Jupiter could tell, there were no animals in space; they were all quarantined down in sanctuaries on select planets.
Except for splices.
[To Kiza] What. The. Fuck. The chariot's a person. I hate space.
She hated space so much, the whole rotten core of this system. She looked right at Rideam, face blank, but hoping the force of her glare could convey her utter loathing. Beside her, Caine shifted, his leather creaking just enough to remind her to pay attention.
If she so much as hinted she'd like it, Caine would go for Rideam's throat. He'd probably make it, and Jupiter wouldn't bet on the chances of Rideam's lycantant chancellor if Caine thought that Jupiter were in danger.
(And Jupiter absolutely would be in danger if she had Rideam assassinated. Gemma's programming wouldn't allow her to interfere with an inter-House dispute, and Rideam had a much larger retinue surrounding her than Jupiter did. On sheer numbers, Jupiter would probably be dead.)
What was Kiza trying to tell her? Whatever, it didn't matter.
Jupiter nudged Caine with her boot, trusting that he'd get the message and rein himself in. He shifted again, but no bloodshed seemed to be imminent and Rideam's chancellor had almost wrapped up his recitation.
[To Kiza] Okay, I can get her out. I can do this. What are the limits on these kinds of bargains?
Jupiter had grown up with negotiation at the dinner table, watching the dances of threat, obligation, and unspoken communication between her mother and the rest of the family. However, it only worked if you knew what the hard lines were.
[From Kiza] I'm not a financier, Your Majesty. Legionnaires say that you can do as you like if you can get Rideam to agree. Staff say that Rideam's a ghoul when bored or vexed.
Nobody mentioned Jupiter's father or Vassily's firstborn daughter. Everyone threatened to leave, but everyone knew that it was empty bluster and show.
[From Kiza] Two hours -- it's probably for a sequence, Rideam wanting to splice her own line with Caine as a base. Rumor has that she's ignored lycantants for several generations; she might want to start over.
Jupiter was not going to be a party to this. Caine's body was not going to be used in whatever the next generation of splices Rideam grew in a vat and sold off to the highest bidder.
[To Kiza] Okay, no.
There would, inevitably, be a generation of lycantant splices. But Jupiter's people were not going to be their seeds.
[From Kiza] All Rideam has to do is look up Caine's records to get it; she probably just wants to avoid the line.
Jupiter had no problem with Rideam being stuck in a line for eternity, and, for once, she knew exactly how to convey that to Kiza.
Beside her, Caine shifted again.
Poker face, Jupiter thought.
[To Kiza] Caine is a person, not an object.
Be fierce, and keep on your poker face.
[To Kiza] Not an option.
[From Kiza] Offer regenex.
That was also not an option. Jupiter was not going to sell people to avoid selling Caine.
[To Kiza] No.
The hell with it. The Chthonos were terrible people with a terrible House, and Jupiter wasn't going to be popular no matter what she did. She might as well confirm her reputation amongst the other entitled.
[To Kiza] Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
[To Kiza] Belt in; I'm about to destroy all diplomatic progress with the Chthonos.
[From Kiza] Awesome.
The recitation of the Chthonos wound to a halt, and Jupiter interrupted before Gemma could begin the complementary recounting of the Abrasax House, the Joneses, and the Bolotnikovs.
"No," she said.
— 100 (Earth) days after Kiza met Her Majesty Seraphi Abrasax's recurrence —
Kiza leaned against the wall, out of sight but listening as her father and Famulus traded barbed pleasantries. Her father was taking as long as possible, giving her time to track down Her Majesty, who wasn't answering the comm device the Aegis had given her. However, he wouldn't be able to drag out the verification of credentials forever.
[To Her Majesty] Your Majesty, Famulus is here on behalf of Titus Abrasax and requests entry into your domain.
Kiza missed talking with Famulus sometimes, but it wouldn't do for a 2nd-gen splice to answer a call from an Abrasax Chancellor. All of their chats had happened in the regenex pools and rooms at the Academy, where unstable genomes like Kiza's were smoothed out and rich splices who didn't care a drop about propriety, like Famulus, had their genomes tweaked.
[To Her Majesty] Please contact Warden Apini directly, that he may know your reply.
At the Academy, all splices were the same.
[To Her Majesty] Felicitations, Kiza, genomic heir of Stinger Apini.
Kiza had envied Famulus' ability to let the stifling atmosphere bead off her back and listened carefully when Famulus expounded on how to take people apart. She'd learned a lot, at least in theory, and as a 2nd-gen splice from a weak hive she needed that knowledge. However, after everything, Titus Abrasax and his servitors weren't likely to look kindly upon the Apini hive for generations. Kiza suspected her days of learning from Famulus were over.
[From Her Majesty] Kiza? WTF?
At least Her Majesty was answering her cell, even if she didn't realize the urgency of the situation.
[To Her Majesty] There is nothing amiss, Your Majesty.
[To Her Majesty] She is in possession of documents that must be conveyed to Your Majesty. Please contact Warden Apini.
Kiza heard the ding of her dad's comm and put her phone on silent.
— 100 (Earth) days after Kiza met Her Majesty Seraphi Abrasax (later in the day) —
Kiza was contemplating whether it was too hot to cook. It really was sweltering, and smoothies sounded delicious. She started gently shooing bees from the cutting board when her phone buzzed.
[From Her Majesty] Kiza?
Huh, perhaps she would find out what this morning was about after all.
[To Her Majesty]
[From Her Majesty] Oh, good, you weren't possessed by a zombie.
Kiza sifted through her memory for relevant references while she pulled out strawberries and blueberries and piled them into the blender. However, she gave up on trying to follow Her Majesty's train of thought and decided to ask directly.
[To Her Majesty]
[From Her Majesty] You were so weird earlier.
That would be because it was an urgent situation, Your Majesty.
[To Her Majesty]
[From Her Majesty] Anyway, why is Titus' flunky summoning me to Orus?
If anything, the better question was why it had taken so long for Her Majesty to be summoned to Orus. Titus Abrasax knew the Code of Conduct and the Abrasax Codes inside out, and the latter included rather large penalties for family disunity, and it was unlikely that Titus had wasted any time. Although, given that Orus was involved, the speed of paperwork, not Titus and his Advocates, was probably the limiting factor.
[To Her Majesty]
Kiza was glad that she'd be dead before Her Majesty fully matured. She didn't want to meet the Seraphi Abrasax who could create those rules for her genome, even if Kiza could abstractly appreciate the irony of her being trapped by them now.
[From Her Majesty] ???
Argh, Kiza knew she'd read the Abrasax Codes -- they'd read them together -- but she'd obviously not fully internalized them yet. Wasn't this supposed to be genomic knowledge, available from birth?
Apparently not, no matter what the Academy proclaimed. Kiza blended her smoothie while thinking through the most relevant details. Knowing Titus, he was probably pursuing the property angle, not the protocol or propriety-related suits.
[To Her Majesty] Caine and my father destroyed a great deal of Titus Abrasax's property in addition to the breach of implied contract when you didn't complete the signifying bond. The judges are likely to look favorably upon his suit for restitution.
[From Her Majesty] asdfghjkl
Kiza could probably find someone who could help. Her dad's attempts to raise the funds for her recode hadn't always been entirely above board, and Kiza didn't doubt that she could find someone who knew an Advocate with a grudge. The problem was going to be finding them quickly and smoothing the path between them. However, if Her Majesty was willing to provide an incentive….
[To Her Majesty]
[From Her Majesty] But you know the Abrasax Code.
[To Her Majesty] I do, but I can't give it to anyone.
No one would believe that she actually had a copy of the Abrasax Code. The entitled locked their Codes in themselves to prevent access, unlike splices, whose genomes were freely available to all in the Academy's registry, and tercies, whose genomes were too shallow to extract unless a recurrence was suspected. An actual hard copy -- Kiza could probably ask for a small refinery or a few moons in exchange for the sheaves.
[To Her Majesty] However, Titus has made a lot of enemies through his embargoes on regenex. Someone can probably come up with something.
She probably should, if only to convince people that she was legitimate.
[From Her Majesty] Titus. Titus Abrasax. He has an embargo on regenex?
[To Her Majesty]
Hence her father working with him to fund her recode. Premium Abrasax regenex was in short supply, and a small amount of it would have covered her recode with some to spare. Heck, as it turned out it did cover her recode with some to spare, it was just sourced from a different Abrasax.
[From Her Majesty] Right.
[From Her Majesty] I'll send Caine over with a copy. Let me know if you find anything before the Aegis show up.
Kiza grabbed a pen and a pad of paper and contemplated how to phrase the message she'd be sending out. She suspected she'd need to burn more than one draft before she finalized it, but she could sneak out while her dad was chatting with Caine.
— 125 days after Jupiter Jones' life became a sci-fi movie, on a space ship —
Jupiter let herself drift awake, enjoying the quiet hum of the Aegis ship and Caine's soft snores against the back of her neck. These bunks really weren't meant for two, but they'd figured out how to configure themselves so they could both sleep, even with Caine's wings adding a feathery mess to the equation.
(Frankly, Jupiter wasn't sure that they weren't defying physics, but she really didn't care. Actually, given some of their positions, she was pretty sure they were defying physics, and it was glorious.)
She stretched, yawning and laughing when Caine grabbed the pillow and pulled it over his head. If the door opened, he'd be awake and alert and between her and it, but in the meantime, at least on an Aegis ship, he relaxed. She loved it and was seriously contemplating commandeering one for a vacation. She was pretty sure Captain Tsing could find some errand that would take them three weeks to complete.
She grabbed her tablet and made her way to the single chair in the room, dragging it around so that she could rest her feet on the bed while she checked her messages, comms, and emails. Caine reached out and rested one of his hands on her foot, and she smiled. She didn't have anything from her family, but she should definitely give Kiza a shout.
She hoped that this would be the last time she was pulled away from Earth for an extended period. Her family was happy for her and flexible with time off in the name of young love, but something would give sooner rather than later if needing days off became needing weeks off.
(In the meantime, Aunt Nino giggled every time she mentioned Caine, and Uncle Vassily quizzed him when he came over. Her mother pretended to be exasperated but showed her how to make gingerbread when she mentioned Caine loved it. It was a bit odd, and she suspected it was the calm before the storm, but she was going to enjoy it.)
[To Kiza] You're amazing,
[To Kiza] I don't know how you know Hir Excellence Themis Titanis, but zhe has Titus and his servitors so wound up in Abrasax Code protocols that the courts declared his suit against me moot. I've been fined for not keeping my House contained, but they feel that this 'insignificant intra-House squabble' is beneath their notice and have declared one percent of his profits for the next cycle to be forfeit.
Jupiter had a suspicion that the Advocates were more fascinated by seeing such an archaic House Code -- one of the oldest in the system, Themis had said -- argued in open court than they were irritated by their time being wasted. Jupiter's percentage from the admission fees matched the fine they had levied exactly, and Advocate Bob told her they'd had to turn people away from the gallery.
[To Kiza] Still in transit. We left Orus yesterday, so it'll be another day or two.
It should really be three or four, but Captain Tsing and her crew knew some interesting wormholes. Jupiter wasn't going to say anything to anyone official, but she suspected that if things ever became sticky Tsing would be a useful person to know.
And between Jupiter's opinions on the entire regenex cesspool and Caine's directness, they were bound to become sticky.
She nudged Caine with her free foot, and he grabbed the pillow off of his head and thwacked her with it, blinking sleepily at her and grumbling.
[To Kiza] Excellent plan.
Jupiter set the tablet down and nudged him again. As expected, he pulled her down, pinning her with his body and holding her wrists over her head.
"Oh no, you've trapped me, whatever shall I do?" she said, grinning up at him.
"As Your Majesty wishes," he said, waiting for her command.
— 131 days after Jupiter Jones was confirmed as the recurrence of Seraphi Abrasax —
[From HM.JJ] Kiza, acknowledged heir of Stinger Apini, once of the Legion, once of the Aegis, now Warden of the House Abrasax, greetings.
[From HM.JJ] I hereby summon you to the Court of Seraphi Abrasax, recurring as Jupiter Jones.
[To HM.JJ] ?!?!?!??
[From HM.JJ] I'm planning to officially make you my chancellor.
[To HM.JJ] Your Majesty, I cannot accept this honor.
[From HM.JJ] There's nothing preventing you from doing so.
[To HM.JJ] Your Majesty, I'm a 2nd-gen splice.
[From HM.JJ] The Code of Conduct states that my chancellor must be a registered splice or a genetically cleansed natural human; all other selection criteria are left to my discretion. The Abrasax Codes say nothing on the matter. You've been both registered and cleansed.
[To HM.JJ] Chancellors are created to complement the strengths of those who ordered them.
[From HM.JJ] And your knowledge complements my lack thereof.
[To HM.JJ] Your Majesty
[To HM.JJ] Jupiter, I'm a feral splice and a genomic wildcard - one cannot be certain of my future actions.
[To HM.JJ] This is going to be a disaster.
[To HM.JJ] Just let me arrange transport.
[From HM.JJ] They'll be there to pick you up
[From HM.JJ] now