[1430.215.1948] Voisin Manor, Birach

The storm assaulted the cliffs below Voisin Manor. Salt spray flew three hundred meters into the night air and the bedrock beneath the family home shook from the fury of each wave. Exposed rocks, not fully braced, sacrificed themselves into the boiling water.

"Thank you for seeing me so late in the evening," Baron Tomas Kellien said. His greasy jet black hair stayed in place as he bowed to her, and then he lightly kissed the back of her hand. "A storm is here and your people offered to refuel my lifter. An additional thank you."

"It has been too long, Tomas," Countess Lacy Voisin replied. His rough hand lingered on her soft fingertips for a moment too long. She withdrew herself with a genteel smile and then moved back to her desk. The deep qana colored wood and polished steel furnishings let her regain the distance between them. She gained strength from the ancient desk. A single armed guard stood in the far corner of the library. Tomas would behave because he knew monitors recorded everything. Still, position and distance must be maintained.

They were vastly different; Lacy, tall and trim, her sandy blond hair pulled into a tight bun. Tomas' eye level was at Lacy's throat and he weighed twice as much as her. Wining and dining with the planetary nobility showed around his waist.

"Please, sit. How can I help you?" Lacy sat in her own black and red chair. Her family crest was woven into the hide of the tall chair back. The chair was designed just for Lacy and was a gift from her daughter.

One side of his upper lip curled as Tomas smiled. "I appreciate the humor, speaking to Countess Voisin in the Mann family manor. I take it marriage displeased you?"

"Many things displease me, but I do not dwell on the distant past. Your comm said something about the future?" Lacy leaned back gracefully and then steepled her fingertips. She felt the crash of the storm's waves from two hundred meters away. She loved that feeling, and the smell of salt spray that came with it.

"You're well read," Tomas nodded to the wall of shelves behind her. "Well educated, and brilliant, if reports are true. I think they are."

He leaned forward slightly. "I am sure you know the past well enough to see the future. The People of Blood have reestablished our rightful position in the stars. Your rightful position. We can lead Birach to a new era of prosperity. To take her place as the strongest world in the Free Trade League. To profit from trade and commerce in a larger market."

"Money and power are interesting goals," Lacy replied quietly. She brought her mind back to the political battle at hand. "How do you see the situation changing?"

"Taxes, first of all. We maintain a system navy that does nothing and a standing army that does even less. Many are calling for the reduction of the navy and the elimination of the army."

"Wouldn't that open us up to the piracy we had before? Wouldn't that hurt the trade and commerce you seek?"

Tomas smiled. "Things are in the works. Things are being done, I assure you. Trade and commerce will be profitable for us."

Lacy said nothing for a long moment, and then stood and walked around her desk. She proffered her hand and a smile. "Send me your plan, Tomas, I will review it and give you my thoughts. However, as we discussed, I have another appointment to attend. Please, let's speak more of this next week."

Tomas grinned, bowed, and again his rough hand lingered. She did not withdraw quite so quickly. "I look forward to working with you, Lacy."

"And I with you, Tomas." Lacy curtsied.

The guard's boot falls echoed down the ancient stone hallway as he escorted Tomas out. The aged butler stepped into the library. "Is there anything you need, ma'am?"

"Hand sanitizer. And my son," Lacy replied. There was a light click behind her. Three of the bookcases were also hidden doors. "The one seems taken care of, I'll forgo the other. Thank you, Alex. Please have Captain Iverson secure the manor and the grounds. I've done enough politicking for the day."

"Certainly, ma'am." Alex bowed and then closed the hewn wood door as he left.

The air shifted on the back of her neck. "I hope you brought qana."

The rug muffled his boot falls as Sublieutenant (Voisin Guard) Andrew Voisin moved to the front of the desk. He held a carafe in one hand and a small jar in the other. With a wink, he offered her the jar. "I knew you'd want this."

"You are a dear," Lacy said. She opened the jar, took two ounces of the gel, and rubbed her hands together.

Andrew refilled her cup, and then picked a crystal shot glass from the polished wood side table. He filled it with hot qana and sat where Baron Kellien had vacated. A very large and very long haired black cat jumped into his lap as the chair conformed to his body. Andrew rubbed his finger under the cat's chin and was rewarded with a loud purr.

"Most people use mugs for their qana," Lacy said. "The desert Clans excluded, of course."

"As the recently departed Baron would say, we are not most people." Andrew grinned and gulped his qana. He winced, and then spewed the hot brown liquid all over his trousers and the fleeing cat. Gasping, he said, "How do they do that?"

"Practice. They also talk for several minutes, letting it cool. You should learn patience," Lacy said. She sipped. "Your thoughts on the proposal?"

"I was surprised you wanted to see his proposal, he's an idiot." Andrew opened his mouth and fanned his tongue.

"He is an idiot, thus the proposal isn't his. Reading it may tell me who is backing him. Who the real players are. They have significant power and unlimited resources. Something huge is brewing." Lacy frowned. "We don't know what that is, yet, and there are four million lives at stake. Ours included, we have too much to lose to let ourselves stumble around blindly."

"And what will we, rather, you, decide?" Andrew opened his mouth wider and breathed deeply.

"To sip my qana, and not gulp it like a young man trying to impress other young men." Lacy smiled. "To care for the people entrusted to me for the rest of my term, and to do my best to ensure I am reappointed for another term."

Andrew nodded. "His baronial self seems to have forgotten that the pen that reinstated the nobility can replace it at will. Perhaps a little more difficult, with our militias. However, I do not see us fighting the regular army. Too many friends on both sides."

"Agreed. He also seems to have forgotten that our planet was effectively conquered by a single Marine. Having a functional army would seem a useful thing." Lacy sat back. "That's what scares me. There is a very big game being played and we're on the far outskirts of it. Kellien is an idiot, but he has somehow convinced someone that he should be the one to bring me in. That person cannot be from here, otherwise, they would have known Kellien and I have a sour history. Yet they are strong enough to convince him, and he gravitates to power."

"You know I would do anything for the family name; for you. Family is everything." Andrew licked his lips. "Have you considered..."

"No. I will not," Lacy said, and then she scowled. "Don't even think it."

"Of course," Andrew sighed and set his glass on the desk. "You saw my request to transfer?"

"You'd be starting the academy a year late, and you won't be on a ship until you graduate," Lacy said. "Still, I'm sure you can do it. You always push yourself to be the very best."

Andrew shook his head, hesitated, and then said, "I'm going in as a rating. As a Marine."

Lacy took a deep breath and then stared at her qana. Her voice was low. "Have I lost you, too?"

"I love you, and I know you love me. I feel this is what I must do." Andrew leaned forward. "I talked to Sarah. She will get me an assignment far from him. I'll be on a ship within six months, and assigned to one of the Deep Space Fleets."

Lacy smiled and set her cup down. She stood, walked around the desk, and sat in the second chair. "You have my permission, and my blessing. And my gratitude for thinking of my feelings."

"You...you really don't mind?"

"Look." Lacy nodded to the sword on the wall behind her desk. It hung point down, the scabbard's wood matched the desk, as did the polished steel guard and pommel. "Your family sword."

"Father's," Andrew whispered.

"Yours. Sarah and I had a row, she ran to him and never came back. Now you, in a way, leave me for his world. I'm sorry our failure hurt you so deeply; I wish I could have fixed that for you." Lacy reached over and took his hand in hers. "The issues and disagreements your father and I had do not color my view of you or your sister. Your father and I struggled and failed. Yet I have two children I love very much, and he has done nothing to turn them against me."

"But Sarah never returned." Andrew looked at her. "I'm not sure how you carried on. She was your heir."

"Sarah is as headstrong as her brother." Lacy squeezed his hand. "Your father, for all his faults, is a good man. You are already like him. When do you leave?"

"Tonight," Andrew said. "Captain Iverson has transmitted my data and I report to Nora at zero four tomorrow morning. I...I need to be going if you don't mind."

Lacy squeezed his hand one more time. "One Marine made our world a better place because he did the right thing. Go, and do likewise."

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” -- G.K. Chesterton

"Be a kid when it's time to be a kid. Be a world changer when the world needs changing." -- Josephine "Jo" Franco

"She struggled to understand love, to accept it. She struggled, as we all do, to find her place. To find her heart." -- Matreetha of the Dragon Clan, NavakSen, "Grandmother"

The Domici War novels are easy reading level science-fiction Coming of Age stories with a Christian Warrior ethos.

The characters struggle with their imperfections and the challenges of an unknowable future.

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