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Five People Seraphi Abrasax Did Not Recur As (Plus One)

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Pepper didn't stop screaming once the entire time Ibis and Razo were chasing her and then whisking her off the planet to Kalique’s palace. She only stopped screaming when Kalique, her supposed genetic daughter, showed up to offer explanations and a demonstration of Regenex (with an entirely unsolicited peep show).

Navigating the corridors of space bureaucracy calmed Pepper right down. She was right at home arguing with functionaries until they grudgingly granted her claim despite the byzantine rules that seemed designed to prevent anyone from doing so. Her appointed advocate, Advocate Bob, only needed to provide occasional bits of information and watch her in awe. Afterwards she offered to employ him, and he explained that she could buy his contract. The wording of the contract was uncomfortably close to buying him, not just his services, but Pepper could deal with that once she had the lay of the land. At the moment, she needed knowledgeable guides. Revolutionizing the space empire would just have to wait a few days.

When her previous self’s younger son abducted Pepper and her small entourage, she refused to discuss anything until he let her see Caine and Advocate Bob in person. Titus’s charm was as smooth as his disturbingly youthful face, but to a woman who had gotten Tony Stark to 76.4% of the occasions he was supposed to attend, Titus might as well have been as young as he looked. Her wolf-man bodyguard and her android were grudgingly brought to her, the former glowering daggers at Titus and the latter beaming ingratiatingly at him, and only then would she listen to Titus’s pitch.

The revelation of how Regenex was made horrified but did not particularly surprise her. She had suspected something like this ever since meeting Kalique. All this beauty and longevity and high technology (Tony would be the proverbial kid in a candy store once she brought him out here) couldn’t come without a horrible price tag, the universe just didn’t work that way. She also didn't buy Titus’s claim that he wanted to end the commodified mass murder. Yes, he looked sincere with those big soulful brown eyes, but physically he appeared to be about nineteen; everyone looked sincere at that age. And if he looked nineteen, he had to have used the Regenex quite recently. Not nearly long enough to trust his supposed change of heart.

Titus obviously would have preferred to make his suggestion alone, but Pepper was adamant about keeping the only people out here who she trusted at all right there where she could see them. When Titus made his proposal, Caine forgot protocol. “Don’t believe him, Your Majesty! He just wants your title to Earth!”

Titus started a wounded protest, but Pepper raised a hand to stop him. The best way to handle arguments like this was by not addressing them directly at all. She would simply pretend she believed Titus’s offer was in good faith - but reject it.

There has to be a simpler way to handle this than a dynastic marriage, Titus. By the way, is marrying your mother’s clone not considered… weird in outer space?”

Titus blinked at her, bewildered. “Weird? Whatever do you mean?”

Pepper spent a full second taking that in and filing it away for future reference. “Right. Apparently in space everyone is a Targaryen. So, this nectar. How many different brands are there?”

Titus knit his brows together, bemused. Advocate Bob spoke up. “One hundred fifty-eight thousand, five hundred and ninety-seven, as of the most recent update of my databanks.”

Thank you, Bob.” Pepper had to take another few seconds to grapple with that number before she addressed the Advocate. “Later today I’m going to need complete information about the demographics of this… civilization. Can you provide that for me, or find me someone who can?”

Advocate Bob looked almost orgasmically delighted at the question. Pepper hoped he wasn’t programmed to enjoy doing his bureaucratic job too personally. “I have extensive databanks that should enable me to answer all of your questions, Your Majesty.”

Good.” She turned her attention back to Titus and spoke briskly. “If the market is this crowded, why are we even bothering? All of the planets I own must have a wealth of other exploitable resources. I can tell you right now that Earth does. And not only natural resources, but locally manufactured products as well. A renewable ongoing source of income. With this many producers of nectar, the Abrasax family would do much better for ourselves by concentrating on other possibilities. Think of it as diversifying our assets.”

Titus stared at her. “But… the Abrasax family business has always been Regenex. Our fortunes have been made on it.”

And from what I’ve heard, your fortunes aren’t doing very well.” She walked past him towards the storeroom’s exit as she continued, words crisp. “If you want to rebuild your own fortune, I’m certain I can find a use for you.” Keep your enemies close. “But it isn’t going to involve selling dead people as bath water. Believe me, if I can turn an eight-figure profit while living on a single backwater planet, you’ll need to make up new numbers for what I can do out here.”

Titus spent a minute standing and cursing silently to himself before his shoulders slumped and he followed her. “Very well, Mother,” he said, resigned.

She ignored the title. “I suppose I’ll have to meet with your older brother as well. I want a full briefing about him,” she tossed back at him as the servants opened the door to the corridor that led back to her room.

Titus cheered up immediately at the thought of what Queen Pepper would do to Balem. “Of course, Mother.”

On reflection, it would almost be worth the recurrence just to watch.