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Novkey > Library > The Rest > The Starlight Fortress

The Starlight Fortress

chapter 30 (end)

Author: FionaR Total hits: 4837 User hits: 29 Date: 03-21-2014

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Geneva opened her eyes and saw Stella sitting at her side. “What happened to me?” She sat up from a daybed and looked around.

“You fainted at the door.” Stella stopped her from getting up. “Take some rest. It’s all over now. Our fleets are back home.”

“All over?” That was too good to be true. She tried to dwell on the good news and avoid remembering anything else.

Then she saw Charlie walking in from outside. Based on the redness of his eyes, he must have stayed awake for the whole time, but other than that, he looked as clean and leisurely as usual.

“How are you feeling?” he asked. “They said you came to talk to me?”

Geneva lowered her head. “You lost a Pathway Escort, didn’t you?”

“Yes, the empty one.”

“Empty?”

Charlie smiled. “You think only your people know how to do research? Since you told us about the virtual image, we’ve been trying to apply it to ship concealment, and we thought the Pathway Escorts would be a good test. With two identical ships, we could roughly overlay one’s image onto the other, but if you look closely, you’d see some fuzziness.”

“So he was in the concealed ship?” She remembered her first defense-counsel meeting after she came back from Thyphol. Now she was glad that her people didn’t try to sell the information to their allies.

“Yep, but it’s not a perfect technique. I guess after the other ship had completely burned out, the ship he was in should have been exposed, but the enemy probably didn’t double check it.” He sat down in a chair, facing her. “So, he arrived at the fortress around the time you came to my door. And thanks to your gravity trick, we were able to negotiate with Pompey.”

Geneva fought back the tears rising to her eyes. “Thank you, Charlie. And you, Stella. We owe you this time.”

* * *

On the following morning, the wedding guests from the RA were ready to board their ship at Artorna’s Royal Spaceport. Holding Terence’s hand, Geneva’s heart was already flying in the sky. She could finally have a complete family! She knew Sterling would be happy too. He never said he missed Terence, but every time he looked at Kyle she knew he did.

Something unusual must have happened as she saw people in front of her turning and muttering to one another. She traced their gazes and saw Pompey stepping out of a car. He walked over to them and stopped at a distance, with an apologetic smile on his face. “Sorry for my undesirable appearance. I’m here to say farewell to my little brother.”

Terence immediately began struggling for freedom. Geneva held his hand tightly and walked up to Pompey. “Farewell, Pompey. I hope we won’t see each other in the future.”

He chuckled. “You never know! Life is full of surprises. I thought this time nothing could’ve gone wrong. So who brought me the surprise? Your boyfriend, again?”

“You keep doing this, Pompey, and you’ll find all your attempts pointless.”

“Not completely pointless! At least I got a captive from your Second Fleet. A four-star! Not sure that has ever happened in the history.”

“He’s alive!” Geneva exclaimed. Everybody believed Oakley had died. “Can I talk to him?”

He shrugged. “You could try. I doubt he would be able to manage a conversation.”

Pompey turned and waved a hand. Soon one of his men walked up with a videophone and handed it to Geneva. The screen showed the live image of a man with bandages all over his head, eyes, and shoulders. But she could still recognize him, one of her favorite officers who began serving her country long before this war had taken place.

“My best commander died in saving him.” Pompey sighed. “What a pity! I’d rather lose a whole fleet to have him back …”

Geneva handed the phone back to Pompey. “What are you going to do with him?”

He mused for a moment. “Since I can’t think of a relative who’d like to marry him, I guess he’ll have to go to Crest Island.”

“You can’t do that, Pompey!” She raised her voice. “He won’t survive in a prison.”

“Then he can run away. It seems my security system isn’t perfect.” He bent down slightly and waved at Terrence. “Take care!”

Watching him heading to his car, Geneva knew she’d regret what she was going to do. “You can have Terence back.” Her voice was husky.

Pompey stopped short and turned back. “Are you sure? You know that guy wouldn’t be able to serve you anymore.”

Geneva knelt down and took a good look at her son. Forgive your mother, she said in her head. Hopefully one day he would understand.

Pompey came over and picked up Terence with his arms. It seemed he had something to say, but he simply left.

“Geneva!” Stella caught her up from behind. “That’s his trick! He meant to take Terence back!”

“Maybe it is, or maybe not.” Her eyes traced the car until it disappeared from her sight. “I do what I have to do.”

* * *

The trip back home was quiet and vapid. When Geneva found Matthew, he was sitting in a chair beside a glass wall and staring at the stars outside. Based on the few empty glasses and bottles on the nearby table, Geneva knew he’d probably been there for hours.

“Thank you for sending over your fleets,” she said to him. “They were a great help to us. And I’m sorry for being rude to you.”

He turned his head to her direction, tired and aged, but he wasn’t looking at her. His gaze seemed to penetrate her and focus at somewhere distant. Then he resumed his earlier posture without a word.

His three daughters were in a great mood, though. They grabbed Geneva and Stella for an exhibition of the trophies they brought back from Artorna’s super shopping center.

“Aren’t they cute?” One of them handed Geneva a box of jewelry made of white gold and sapphire. The ornaments on the ring, the necklace, and the earrings were all carved into little starfishes.

“Eric Lee’s new design—Starfish Babies. Only eight sets in the world!”

* * *

Shortly after they went through the Silk Road, Geneva’s own ships came along to pick her up. She thanked Stella and Charlie for all the things they did for her and left. She was a little surprised when she learned that Lloyd was also in the ship. “Uncle!” She entered the study and closed the door behind. “You don’t have to come. Is Auntie’s cold getting better?”

In her memory, Lloyd was always prompt to people’s greetings, but this time, sitting behind a desk, he didn’t even look at her. “She’s not your aunt, and I’m not your uncle.” He picked up a folder from the desk. “Your results came back. You don’t have royal blood.”

Frowning, she walked to him and opened the folder. “No, that’s impossible!” She browsed through the document, her face turning pale. “I’ll have another test!”

“You can have as many DNA tests as you want.” Lloyd left his chair to make himself a cup of tea. “It wouldn’t change the fact that you are Quincy’s daughter. Honestly, if I were you, I’d never have asked for a test. Do you know how many people die of curiosity?”

She set the folder back to the desk and calmed herself. “You think Calvin would be able to handle the situation?”

“Not yet, but once the responsibility falls on his shoulders, he’ll learn, and he’ll change.” He sat back to his chair and set his tea on the desk. “During the time you were captured, he thought he’d be the next sovereign, and he was a completely different person. He woke up early to read books. He followed the news nationwide. Your return dashed his hope so cruelly that I almost wanted to kill you.”

“Almost …” Geneva chewed his word. “I could understand a good father’s—”

“I’m not a good father.” He cut her short. “I wish I had spent more time at home when he was young. But I don’t deny being a better parent than you are, Geneva. How could you give up your own child to the enemy? To consolidate your reign? Does power mean that much to you, woman? I wish I had faxed your test result to you a day earlier. At least that poor little boy wouldn’t have lost his mother again.” He leaned back in his chair. “How ironic!”

Geneva stood still, her teeth clenched tightly. She was ready to leave, but instead she moved closer to him and asked in a quieter voice. “Were you the one who tried to kill me at the fortress? And my baby?”

Lloyd’s face became solemn as he stood up and studied her. He studied her carefully, as if trying to see through all the thoughts in her brain.

“No,” he said finally. “To me, whoever did that almost made a mistake.”

“I see.” Geneva nodded. She backed up from his desk for a few steps, paused, and left the room.

* * *

As Sunphere’s royal ship approached their home planet, hundreds of warships were waiting on the way in a straight line that spread over miles. Geneva stood beside a large window in a freshly changed skirt suit. What she saw was different from a regular inspection. Those weren’t shiny pearly new ship models. Many of them had visible damages on the hulls. One by one, she thought she could feel the heat radiating from the engines, the filthy smell coming from the exhausted soldiers. Tears quietly flew down on her face.

The ship landed on a large plaza. As she stepped down the ladders connected to the ground, she saw familiar figures waiting ahead, their clothes shed into a warm orange color by the setting sun. “YOUR MAJESTY!” The greetings from hundreds of soldiers in the distance filled up the sky.

“You saluted the wrong person,” she heard Lloyd saying at her back. “She has no royal blood.”

“I don’t care who the freak has royal blood!” Admiral Wilson had regained his voice. “She’s the only one I listen to, and so do my soldiers,” he said and left for his car.

“How … how could he make such an announcement?” Lloyd said to William the Prime Minister. “My son is the sovereign according to the law, isn’t he?”

“Yes, he is,” William answered aloofly. “But that has nothing to do with me. I’m retiring.” He turned around and walked to his car.

* * *

“I know you are tired,” Sterling said to Geneva after she entered his car. “But we have a guest in my house.”

She was indeed tired, but she also knew Phillip Benvenutto wasn’t a regular friend of Sterling. Men’s energy! Didn’t they just come back from a battle?

She browsed inside his car as he started the engine. The car, as clean as it was three years ago, was the compensation she made for losing his Nebufleet. She then glanced at the man who was driving it and turned to the window to see the land where she grew up—the land she, Sterling, and all the others had fought for. The traffic was growing heavier as people got off work and drove home. Maybe they would talk about the battle at dinner or watch the news later tonight, but it didn’t matter too much to their lives. The modern society wasn’t that fragile.

After the car arrived at his house, they had to make their way through a bunch of journalists who were waiting outside.

“Your Majesty, there are rumors saying that you’re Quincy’s daughter. Is that true?”

“What are you going to do after you become a commoner? Would you be interested in starring yourself in the Naughty Dirty Queen?”

“Captain Presley, could you show us your dragon?”

* * *

Phillip must have lost some weight since Geneva last saw him in Owlhidden. He was probably wearing the same uniform he had at the battlefield, but there was no trace of fatigue on his face.

“Only the Levitation,” Sterling said as he laid three cups of coffee on the table. “The Lady Terri was actually better than it looked. But we lost more fast destroyers than you.”

Geneva’s mind drifted away as the two men talked about the battle. So this would be the life of an ordinary housewife, right? She took a sip of the coffee and looked around the house—small, clean, and cozy. Sitting on the couch with her husband, chatting with a friend, except that the subject might need to be changed to baseball or politics. She smiled. It wasn’t bad …

“It’s a real pity that Rafael died,” she heard Sterling saying after she redrew her attention to their conversation. “Few people in the world have his talents.”

“If only he hadn’t been so jealous of you!” Phillip sighed.

Geneva felt her blood freezing. The cup in her grip suddenly became too hot to hold.

“What did you say?” Sterling also sounded alerted. “Rafael was jealous of … me?”

“It was obvious!” Phillip said innocently. “I met him at your celebration dinner after the last battle. You were the national hero, and he felt he was treated unfairly.”

Geneva slowly stood up. “You are the one who told him my trip’s schedule, aren’t you? He might not have betrayed us otherwise. Without me Pompey wouldn’t have trusted him easily.”

“Yes, it was me.” Phillip also stood up. The hatred in his eyes had made him a different person. “I was hoping you could die in Pompey’s hand, but now I think this might be a better ending. That’s why I’m here today, to watch your fall. I only wish your father—well, he’s not really your father—that guy, had lived long enough to see the payoff of his deed, to see with his own eyes that you are actually the daughter of the assassinator.”

“So you are the grandson of Larry Ciriaco,” Sterling said without looking up. “Former leader of the Ragged Wealth. Now I know why he looked so familiar to me … But you shouldn’t have taken your revenge on her. The mistake was solely her father’s fault.”

“I hate her no less than I hate her father. You know how sad my sister was when you brought this woman home? You know how much you’ve hurt her?” Phillip threw Geneva another resentful look. “Well, it’s understandable that you chose to be with her. Few men in the world could’ve resisted the power. But now it would be unwise for your career. I doubt Lloyd would want anyone that’s related to her.”

“Thank you for your advice, Phillip.” Sterling stood up and checked the time on his watch. “It’s quite late. My girlfriend and I are going to have dinner. You can use our phone to call a cab.”

Phillip shook his head in disappointment. “You will regret it.” He grabbed his cap from the clothes rack and left without another look at them.

* * *

Geneva and Sterling stood quietly for a while. Then she breathed out aloud. “You said dinner? I’m really hungry now!”

“Let’s see if I have anything edible.” He went to the kitchen, and a minute later he came back with a box of dry spaghetti. “You know, maybe you should start learning to cook, now that you aren’t a queen, remember?”

“Fine.” She followed him into the kitchen. She filled a pan with cold water, set it on the stove, and poured the spaghetti in.

“Oh!” He covered his eyes with a hand.

“What did I do wrong?” she asked defiantly. “I did it this way before and it worked!”

“Let’s worry about your training at a later time.” He picked up a mesh strainer from the wall and drained the spaghetti. As he boiled the water, he said to her and to himself, “The journalists asked a good question—what do you plan to do? I know you’ll be bored at home. What are the things you are good at? Hmm … public speaking? Yes, I bet you would enjoy teaching …” He glanced at her and paused. “What’s that smile?”

She straightened her face. “Nothing.”

“How long have we known each other, Geneva?” He pressed on.

She lowered her head and smiled again. “I’m still the queen. The male DNA record wasn’t Quincy’s. It was my father … the king’s.”

Sterling stared at her for a few seconds and smacked the counter with a hand. “Manipulative woman!”

“Fernando found out that my mother never saw Quincy again after she came back to her hotel. Then I had the idea, a tough decision. It would be unfair to Calvin, but I couldn’t think of another way to dig out my enemies. So I asked Fernando to let out the ‘secret’ that I was going to take a DNA test …”

He took a long breath. “When are you going to tell the public?”

“I don’t know.” She moved closer to him and looked into his eyes. “Maybe never, if the only way to keep you in my life is to lose my job.”

He blinked at her. “I don’t get your logic.” They both smiled briefly. Then a trace of melancholy crept up his face. “You know, when the other escort was blown up, I thought of Kyle. How would he feel if I never went back to see him? He doesn’t understand what death means yet. He would think I deserted him.”

How about Terence? Geneva asked herself. Would he think that she deserted him?

“Let’s eat first. Then we’ll see if we could catch him before bedtime.” Seeing the water beginning to bubble, he added the food. “And I haven’t met your baby yet. His father once took care of my son. Now it’s my turn to do something for him.”



(The end)
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