Who Shall Wear the Robe and Crown?
“Sic … semper … transit … gloria … Terra,” gasped the old woman as the date slid by on a wall display – May the 12th of 2245. So goes the glory of Terra. The words were well-rehearsed. They were memorable. They were unique. They were perfect.
There was silence as her six children stood around the bed – five sons and one daughter. They were joined by two daughters-in-law, one son-in-law, one son’s alien male lover, one grandson, one granddaughter-in-law and one great-grandson, an infant. Those dozen people all looked at each other a little nervously.
The old woman quietly continued to breathe. Dammit, I’m not dead yet, she thought to herself. “Jun,” she croaked out to her eldest son, “You will rule.” She cautiously reopened her sloe eyes.
“With Kira, Ma,” Jun corrected her. He glanced up at second-born Kira, who was taller than he was.
“Your fathers,” the old woman said, “are all dead. Ritchie Daniels, Jun’s father, he, his shuttle crashed on Darananaea, a planet that always smells like wet dog. It was before any of you were born. Kira,” she motioned to the tallest person in the room, “yours was Aidan MacKenzie. He, he went to some godforsaken rock somewhere. Arashi, yours was José Torres. Or maybe your father was Frank Ramirez. I forget,” she took a labored breath, “Torres died in a slave revolt. Ramirez went to a rock, uh, I dunno where. Takara,” she said to her only daughter, “and Takeo,” she included the daughter’s twin, “Chip Masterson, he went to a rock, too. I, I don’t know why they’d rather go to, to rocks rather than be here on the Defiant with me.”
“What about me?” asked Izo, the youngest.
“Same slave uprising as Torres. The, the silver aliens. You can’t trust ‘em. Calafans,” she spat out, and then focused on one such silver alien in the room. “Who’s the hell’s that?”
“Ma,” Takeo told her, “that’s Ubvelwev. He and I have been together for years.”
“What? Oh, yeah,” the old woman grumbled. “And these girls?”
“Jun’s wife,” Izo explained, “And Kira’s. Mine and Arashi’s couldn’t make it, Ma. But tell me about my Dad, Ma. I never knew him.”
“Travis Mayweather,” she grunted, “good for one thing only. Fragged by his own troops. He was hot.”
“Uh, sure, Oba-asan,” replied her grandson.
“Who the hell are these extra people?” she wearily waved at him and in the general direction of the rest of his immediate family.
“Ma, you know this,” Takara explained, “my husband, Charlie Tucker IV. Our son, Chuck the fifth. Chuck’s wife, Denise Masterson, who is also our cousin. Their son, Charles the sixth.”
“You married your cousin?” asked the old woman.
“Yes,” Chuck explained, “We were in the wilds of Lafa II. Not a lot of options there. But it doesn’t matter. We still love each other, and we would still marry, even if we had a billion other choices.”
“Huh,” the old woman sniffed haughtily. “Good thing my genes are better than that. They overrid all of that lousy Tucker blood.”
Takara drew her husband aside. “Try not to take it personally, okay? Her memory is all messed up. And she’s wrong about Aidan – he’s still alive. And my dad is; you know this. We saw him and Lucy yesterday. I bet she’s wrong about Daniels, too.”
“She doesn’t have to be so damned annoying, dying or not,” Charlie complained.
“It won’t be long,” Izo commented. “Look.”
The old woman was looking up and past them, it seemed. “I see people.”
“Who?” asked Jun.
“Some old MACO from, I dunno when. Takashi Kimura. And the Quartermaster from, sheesh, over fifty years ago, Sekar Khan. This is it! This is who’s coming to take me over the threshold?” her tone was one of annoyed disbelief. “I demand someone else, not these, these losers.”
“Maybe, Ma,” Kira ventured, “they’ll be your personal servants, or your bodyguards. I mean, ya gotta figure you’ll be in charge there.”
“Yes, you’re probably right,” sniffed his mother. “They’re launching that new ship today. What’s its name again?”
“Enterprise, Ma,” stated Arashi.
“You’ll continue watching the treasury, right?” the old woman asked.
“Of course, Ma,” Arashi assured her.
“Someone’s always stealing. The silver ones steal,” she sneered. “Why’s there a silver in my bedroom?” she whined.
“Ma, like I said, this is Ubvelwev,” Takeo repeated.
“Whatever,” the old woman replied. “Those, those losers, they’re getting me something.” She looked up again, distracted from her family.
“I bet it’s a robe and crown,” Izo speculated.
“Gimme mine,” the old woman demanded.
He reached back, finding the requested items. She had not worn them when she was younger but, as the years had gone on and on, she had become more and more over the top. The crown was huge and heavy, the custom-made robe trimmed with ermine and festooned with elekai feathers in an elaborate multicolored design. He showed them to her. “Here, I’ll put these on.”
“The crown goes the other way,” she snarled, “gimme that, you idiot.” As he began to comply, she waved him off weakly. “The losers are back. They have a pad for me.”
“A PADD for data?” Chuck inquired.
“No, stupid, it’s a pad for, for the ground. It’s the sort of thing some slave would use while gardening.” She looked up again, and was not addressing the living, “You morons made a mistake. I am not going through eternity on my knees, digging in the dirt and pulling up weeds like some slave or silver thief, loser, oh, you’re such dolts!”
“Ma, here,” Izo again tried to put the robe and crown on her.
“Izo, you’re as clueless as your father was. Oh, gimme those, Izo, you imbecile!” She gasped twice, and her eyes clouded over.
Izo still had the articles in his hands. “Which of you gets which of these?” he asked his eldest brothers, Kira and Jun.
“We’ll get duplicates made,” Kira decided on the spot. “So, um, maybe neither of us right now, okay?”
A MACO general emerged from the shadows. The patch on his arm said E. Hamboyan. Jun commanded him, “Open a channel to the entire Terran Empire and all of its provinces and conquests like we planned when she first started to decline.”
Hamboyan fiddled with controls. “Ready,” he reported.
Jun stared straight into the camera. “The Empress Hoshi Sato I is dead.”
Behind him, Hamboyan saluted, his fist hitting his own chest and then the fingers were splayed out in a delta formation as his arm rose. “All hail the tandem Emperors, Jun Daniels Sato and Kira MacKenzie Sato!”
From the late Empress’s bedroom, and all of the provinces and conquered lands of the Terran Empire, and even the remainder of the late Empress’s family, they all bellowed as one in response, “All hail!”