Red Storm Over Ganymede
Isul was out organizing all the details of our flight to Titan. He had been moody for days, and I knew he was dreading the thought of seeing Chet again. It had been a bad time for me, and I knew Isul didn’t want to risk me falling back into my old habits. But the drugs were behind me.
I tried contacting Winnie to see if she had made any progress with Isul’s condition, but all I got from her end was radio silence and a cryptic, text-only message that she would contact us when she had something. I still felt terrible about her arm, but she had waved me off, saying all great scientific discoveries carried risk.
I had been formulating a plan ever since that terrible night, however, and it involved using a royal injunction to access Biodyne’s records and get some answers. But to do that, I would need an Imperial seal. The likelihood of Nona Regina helping on anything Bio-droid related being less than zero, I would have to toe the line in regards to the marriage, succession, and progeny issue.
But before that, I needed to visit my parents.
I made my way to the Room of Records, located deep within the palace itself. It was the central database for Jovian royal history, and not accessible through the regular DataNet. Too much sensitive information resided in those walls.
The door took a DNA scan before admitting me, and I walked into a plush reading room. The walls were lined with real books, many hundreds of years old, and a few that predated the Empire itself. Beyond that, there was a long holotable that could showcase more recent records. But I went past all of that, and headed straight for the reclining couch in the rear of the room. Because hooked up to it were several electronic brains, each of them memory mapped from my father, mother, and me.
Memory mapping had been a relatively new technology in my parents’ reign, but my father insisted they start preserving memories for history’s sake. My mother had been less than pleased at having strangers rifling through her private thoughts, so her condition was that the memories could not be accessed by anyone until the ruler after me ascended the throne.
In a rare display of emotion, during my rehabilitation, Nona Regina had unsealed the memory maps for me alone to see. I think she wanted me to feel reacquainted with my parents, with our history, and to feel the legacy I had inherited. Truthfully, it had pushed me away, into my party boy lifestyle. Because how could I ever measure up to a pair of martyrs?
Over time, however, with a lot of encouragement from Isul, I began to explore the memories they left me. Nothing from the last few weeks of their lives was available, because they hadn’t had another memory mapping session scheduled until after the peace talks with Mars, but everything else before was there.
I tapped the case containing my father’s brain copy. There was a particular memory in here that I always visited when I felt depressed. He was with me the day Isul 1.0 was activated.
I preferred his memory to my own on the same experience. I rarely ventured into my own memory maps from before the accident. The mental disconnect was too painful. That Tristan was dead; he died with his parents, and sometimes I felt like nothing more than an echo of who I was supposed to be.
I laid down on the couch and hooked the eyeglass up before pulling it down over my eyes. The memory map was a huge file system, but I knew exactly where to go, and selected the file from twelve years ago.
I saw myself through my father’s eyes as we waited in the lab at Biodyne. I was twelve years old, and my first Bio-droid was going to be my present from my parents for my First Revolution celebration.
A smile crossed my lips as I saw Winnie enter the lab. She still worked for the Biodyne back then, and the fact that she had set us up together was one of the reasons she had agreed to help us later on. She had still had all her natural limbs then, not the chromed wonders she now possessed.
“So, roughly fifteen years old in appearance should give the Prince enough time to catch a growth spurt and catch up before the next Bio-droid. We find with younger people that it’s good to have the age range slightly older, as it gives them time to grow up,” Winnie said.
My father turned to me. “What feature would you like for distinction, Tris?” He had always called me Tris. My father pulled up some of the option: scales, feathers, fur, ears, bioluminescent markings. But my eyes settled on the antlers, and I pointed at them. The image bobbed as my father nodded in assent. “Good choice, Tris. Very regal.”
Winnie guided us through the rest of the selection process, and I smiled as the holo-image of Isul 1.0 took shape. That Isul had given me my life back after the accident, and I held an especially fond place in my heart for him.
The build chamber in the center of the lab began to frost over as the nanites began their work. Soon it was done, and the walls of the chamber lowered to reveal Isul’s body.
“What do you think, Tris?” my father asked.
I didn’t say anything, just looked in open-mouthed astonishment at the creature before me. This part of the memory always made me smile. It was nice to know that even before the accident, I had been enamored with Isul.
“Now, go ahead and speak these words,” Father said, indicating the screen in front of him.
I watched myself take in a deep breath before saying, “I, Tristan Deschard, enter into agreement with Bio-droid number 4692, given name Isul.” Once the words were spoken, Isul’s amber eyes fluttered open. Though I did not remember this directly, seeing Isul’s birth always gave me chills. “Hello?” I asked tentatively.
“Hello Tristan,” the beautiful boy said, his face splitting in a wide grin. “My name is Isul.” He reached out a hand, which I tentatively took before he pulled me into a hug. “I just know we’re going to be the best of friends.”
The memory dissolved in a shower of pixels, and I was melancholy as I took off the headset. My heart clenched as I tried to will myself into remembering Isul’s birth, my father and mother, anything about that life.
But like always, only blank nothing greeted my efforts.
Why did it always feel as though every time I approached happiness, something catastrophic was bound to occur? Was I simply not destined to be happy? Was happiness even possible for a future Emperor, or a selfish dream?
My father appeared happy. His smiling face reminded me it was possible.
Some of us simply had to fight harder for our happiness. I didn’t want to give up on a future for Isul and me, but I couldn’t deny that right now that was impossible. In the interim, I had to do what was best for the Empire. Did I truly even have a choice?
But unless I declared a Prince or Princess Consort, the Order of Oberon would be liable to declare me unfit to rule. That thought barely bore consideration. Because only with Imperial authority could I save Isul.