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The officer-in-waiting who stepped inside wore a red ribbon around the wrist, rare signifier of family communications. It was the first time in a little while that anyone had been inside the remote space bunker besides the family, so this intrusion already carried an air of importance. They recognized the meaning of the red ribbon, and there was only one family member unaccounted for. The young ones felt a inexplicable thrill as a missive was handed over to their father. The ceremonial air lent the moment additional gravitas, though it was an almost welcome break in the tension. Between a brooding parent and suspended fortunes at the edge of world collapse, something at least was happening.

There had been some forewarning, of this precipitating, though the communique was its own occasion. King Proxem Grant Vario had remained observant of current events from his vantage point – reading up, staying apprised, and strategizing in a chamber to himself. As a family, they did their best to uphold something like civility and normalcy for the sake of close-quarters survival. They occupied themselves individually with a method of coping: Mireille read, Cristobal wrote and drew, while Carlo completed puzzle game after puzzle game.

Word going around had been noted by observant people as something sensational was stirring. This had been noted by the King Proxem as well, half-blinded by denial though he was. So when he read the scroll, by himself in privacy, it made a kind of sense. Consistency of his previous standpoints would call for opposition, but what if that were ultimately the problem?

The message of the scroll came with a personal challenge from his daughter, behind a fully encoded seal. Such challenges were rare, and couldn’t ultimately be avoided. It was one of the family’s dark secrets, one way the lineage had kept power in forms of service. There was a method by which they would oppose and oust each other. It didn’t happen once in a generation, maybe not once in five. The family maintained an almost never-explained tradition of blade training under different masters, and the oath to face each other under necessary conditions. There were times, it was said, when one tried to flee a reckoning, but it never worked. This one came from Princess Ascendant Soleil, Magus to King Proxem Grant Vario.

He would accept. Composing himself, he brought the virtualized copy of the scroll out to the family. “This is going to take a little time, but I want you to understand the contents of this document.” Hearing his tone, they put away what they were doing, and listened with the seriousness of lives at stake. They went over the different items; they went over the language; they went over the peoples involved, discussed within the context of public history contrasted with revealed information. There was some people’s insight that Vario refrained from relating because he hadn’t yet acknowledged these societal changes, though some inklings of it may have reached Mireille and Cristobal. Then the King said, “I’m going to meet with your sister in the court at the Capital.”

Mireille knew what this meant, and wondered who would survive the result. Cristobal suspected. Carlo intuited. Together, they established a new order of responsibility in the ship during their father’s absence.

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