In pulling out The King of the Moon of the Moon and the Queen of the Night, Jeanette realized that she had an awful lot of unfinished books in her backpack. This tended to be her natural state, but it came home to her that there was probably useful information in all of them. (She hadn’t even opened the book named Excelsior, and who knows? It might have all the answers they were looking for.)
She gave the book to her father, and dragged a drab armchair over to where he was sitting. She had gotten so upset at the first hints of a secret life of a woman she cared for so much--but now that it seemed she knew nothing about her at all, she was oddly okay with it. Still, Dada was the speed reader.
“Okay, backtracking a little bit, Jeanette, it seems that Eadward and Ngozi had trouble at first disposing of 120,000 ghosts, and there were incidents, but when an immense ship of the previously unknown Afterlife Empire docked in port and seemed intent on impressing the entire population of the satellite for their conquest and colonization of Ninth Heaven, they came to the rescue with a deal. (There was a crisis since they insisted that there be 144,000 as per prophecy, but a pro-rating deal was worked out, and they got a vast infusion of exotic matter that put them at the top of the heap. So that’s part of the ghost thing.”
“Mmm...they married and conceived three children whose embryos they put in stasis, since the Moon of the Moon was no place to raise children..there arose tension between them because the Captain was full of greater ambition while it seemed that Eadward was not...Okay, this is where I read to you about the Ark of Infinity, where the King confesses that he’s waiting for the really big deal to come along, and reveals that the most precious part of the treasure he--somehow--left the Ark with was three samples of Variant Space. So this probably explained why our friends on Storisende lent--no, gave you the book.”
Dr. Ransom flipped through pages, back and forth, and said, “There’s a lot of just plain romance stuff here. Never been my cup of tea...fights, and make-ups...Okay, here’s where Mad John Iqalummiaq comes in. He’s an up-and coming trader who wants to sign on as their lieutenant., but neither of them like him. But…hmmm…” more pages flipped, “somehow they sign an agreement with him. I think I see where this is heading.”
“Okay, here. There’s a scene where Ngozi finds Eadward cheating on him. Apparently through the agency of Mad John. God, for a guy named Lear, this becomes just like Othello--except, yes, backwards.”
“Sorry Jeanette. Haven’t forced Shakespeare on you yet. Nor should I have. But there’s an explosion, made worse by Ngozi being convinced that the woman is named River.”
“River!” And the rest of the group turned and paid a little more attention at the name.
“Hmm...Eadward denies that the, um, incident took place at all, despite the fact that they were all in the room together. But instead, there’s some talk about an Obliquity Rose--hmm, I must have missed that--and alternate worlds in the same space without a portal. And Mad John had something to do with that. Sorry. But let’s go on, and then come back, OK?”
“OK. Obliquity? What does that mean?”
“It’s a fancy word meaning being at an angle. Slanted. Oblique.”
“Anyway...Oh yes. The big break-up. Sorry if I’m sounding so cynical, Jeanette. I cared for her, but as a book, this is kind of obvious. Anyway, she goes and steals Eadward’s treasure, loads the embryos on board the Paradox Swan, never to return. Or not.”
“Selling the Variant Space samples is hard: the entities with enough resources try to betray her and just take it from her by force. She meets Ambivalence Pugh, and teams up with him.”
“He starts to put together a deal with a strange and distant Empire--when Ngozi gets word that Iqalummiaq has staged a coup against Eadward and is slowly torturing him to death. She decides to return, Pugh tries to kill her...she kills him and turns him and the crew who side with him into ghosts.”
“The Dead Man’s Chest. They were her crew, then.” Jeanette said, despite it all, unhappy with another instance of fakery on the Captain’s part.
Terence flipped back a few pages, read, and said, “Actually, there were two ships, and it was the crew of the Feckless Disaster that tried to kill her. I don’t see what happens to her crew.”
Flip flip flip. “So she sells the Variant Space samples for next to nothing--hm, the empire is called the Maxion Tract, and not Sprezzatura--and uses the resources to raise a ghost army. Returns to the Moon of The Moon and lays waste to it. Less than a page devoted to it.”Ransom started to read to himself. “I think I should read this part out loud.” And he started:
“They stood together, in the throne room that was their bed, The Pirate Queen of the Night, Mad John Iqalummiaq, and the bleeding broken body of Eadward Cincinnatus Davilmar Orestes Lear. Floating faintly in midair was a woman, dark like her, in filmy blue and white.
“Iqalummiaq! You promised me I would have my revenge!” The specter shouted like angry smoke.
“If you put your trust in this turd, you deserve what you get.” Ngozi said in low menace.
“You promised me she would not return! You promised me he would die alone! I told you where to find the Obliquity Rose, gave you power, and you fail!” Lightning leapt from the specter’s outstretched hand, but Ngozi Makena Odile stood between the two, and she parried it with a knife blade.”
“It’s clear my fight is with you, and not the maggot,” the Captain said. She walked forward. There was a blue flower on the floor and she picked it up.
She stood very close to the woman, whom he knew she had seen before, in their bed with Eadward. “Go ahead, then: do your worst.”
The floating woman emitted a wavering cry. “You don’t understand! I cannot kill him!”
“I see,” said The Pirate Queen. She turned and looked at the bloody mass of Eadward Lear. “This woman is River Daughter, the Captain of the Ark of Infinity, whom you seduced, fucked, and stole a great treasure from.”
Lear could say nothing: he was far beyond that. But the woman River Daughter said, “The treasure means nothing.”
“That’s good, because I blew it all on ghosts,” Ngozi said.
“He--” the specter began, but the Captain raised her hand. “Don’t. I’ve heard it all before, out of my own mouth.”
“You can’t kill him? I can’t kill him either. What do we do with the son of a bitch?”
After a pause, River Daughter said, “There is a way. I can’t do it: only the one who holds the Rose can.”
And she told her.
Ngozi Makena Odile held the flower over her head, and it seemed that the hand went all the way into the dark of space. She said two words, and lowered her hand.
She was alone in the throne room. She dropped the Obliquity Rose to the floor and ground it with the heel of her boot.
She left the Moon of the Moon--left it to Mad John Iqalummiaq, who eventually became the most powerful boss of the port. She never returned.
And Eadward Cincinnatus Davilmar Orestes Lear recovered, and lived an eventful life--but never in the same universe as The Pirate Queen of the Night. If they ever got close--and no record said they did--they would pass through each other’s hands like phantoms.
Terence closed the book.
Jeanette wiped her nose on her sleeve.
“We have heavy armament coming up the tunnel. It seems they have found us,” said Lord Elphinstone, drawing his sword.