Jeanine is getting her duchy back under control. Meanwhile, Jana is finally caught up enough on sleep for her subconscious to get through to her.
“Oh, my God, I can’t believe I forgot about something so important!”
It’s no fun when your subconscious screams something like that at you. It’s even less fun when it wakes you from a deep and much-needed sleep. But, when the ‘important’ thing might affect humanity’s future and when you really did forget about it in the rush to rescue a duchess and a princess—not to mention a family with two adorable children—I think you should cut your subconscious some slack. So, I forgave myself for the lapse.
Even so, I found myself sitting bolt upright in the bed. My heart was hammering so fast I was afraid it might burst. My breath came in ragged gasps. At least half a minute passed before I calmed myself enough to focus my eyes on anything. Of course, my hair was so tousled that it hung over my eyes and blocked most of the room from my sight. It was also the middle of the night, so there wasn’t a whole lot I could see, anyway.
I found myself wishing I had someone sleeping next to me—a Drake of my own, if you will. Not actual Drake, of course. Not only is he dedicated, body and soul, to Jeanine, but he’s just not my type of man. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great guy and exactly the kind of man you hope one of your closest friends marries. But I want someone who understands why slicing appeals to me so much and why jumping out of perfectly good spaceships in near-orbit has so little appeal for me.
Gradually, my heartbeat slowed and my breathing evened out. Apparently, imagining my perfect man had something of a calming effect on me. It left me feeling a bit wistful, wondering if I’d ever have anything like Jeanine and Drake have, but I could think rationally again.
I checked the chrono next to the bed. Four in the morning. That was way too early to talk to Jeanine. She’d had an extremely trying last couple of days and was bound to be sleeping. I, on the other hand, was wide awake.
I crawled out of the bed. It was about the size of a small tropical island and I’d been curled up in its geographical center, so that took a lot of crawling. When my feet finally touched the floor, I headed for the bathroom and started the shower.
Showers are, for me, the perfect place for brainstorming on my own. The hot water is so soothing it’s almost as if my brain disconnects from my body and goes wandering. As a result, I don’t really have a regular time to shower. Don’t get me wrong, I still bathe before going on dates, meeting with clients, and all the other times you want to make sure you’re clean and smell good. But, when I’m puzzling through a problem, my energy bill spikes because I end up taking a bunch of hour-long showers.
Dad used to complain about those spikes in the bill when I was a teenager. I don’t think he ever figured out that I started slicing the power company and adjusting our usage. The important thing, to me, was he stopped bitching about my showers.
I stayed in the shower for a very long time—longer than I’ve ever stayed in one before—and the water never even cooled down slightly. Meanwhile, my mind floated free of my body. It meandered in and out of the memories of my visit inside the Star Stone, considering everything the Stone said to me from many different angles. And, by the time I turned off the water, I knew what I had to do.
Edward, Jeanine’s assistant, found me camped out at her office door when he arrived to open the office. He politely offered me a hand up and let me into the outer office.
“I’m afraid Lady Jeanine has a rather full calendar, today, Miss Ward,” he told me after checking the day’s schedule. “Perhaps I can fit you in at…let me see…two fifteen? As long as the Duchess’s one thirty appointment doesn’t run long, I can get you five minutes with her.”
“I appreciate just how busy Jeanine is, Edward, but I absolutely must speak with her first thing this morning.”
Edward studied his data screen, perhaps hoping some free time would magically open, but more likely using it as a cover while he tried to figure out how to get rid of me. The man was a dedicated assistant and had Jeanine’s best interests at heart, so I really hoped I wouldn’t have to threaten to ruin his credit rating or splash his most closely guarded secrets all over the net. Okay, I wouldn’t really do anything like that, but he wouldn’t know that.
While he was busy pretending to study the screen, the office door opened and Captain Reel entered. Edward smiled a greeting and said, “She’s not here yet, Captain, but you can go on into her office.”
“Thank you, Edward,” the Captain replied. As he strode toward the door to the inner office, he nodded politely to me, “Good morning, Miss Ward.”
“Captain?” I asked. “Would you be willing to let me speak with Jeanine first?”
He stopped walking, but didn’t even waste one second considering my request. “I’m sorry, but my briefing concerns the security of the duchy and is of the utmost importance.”
“Is your briefing more important than the future of the star kingdom?” I asked.
Captain Reel frowned, “This is no time for jokes, Miss Ward.”
“I agree, Captain,” I replied. “For future reference, the corners of my lips turn up when I’m joking. As you can see, they are turned down right now.”
Reel blew out his breath in frustration, “You simply cannot be serious, Miss Ward.”
“Serious about what?”
Jeanine stood in the doorway, looking back and forth between the two of us. The Captain and I had been so busy staring each other down that we didn’t even notice her arrival.
Reel beat me to the punch. Opening the door to the inner office, he said, “Good morning, my lady. Shall we begin your briefing?”
Jeanine held up a hand, stopping the Captain, and turned her attention to me. “I’ve never seen such a serious expression on your face, Jana, not even when you confirmed I was the Wilkinson Bastard. What’s wrong?”
“Oh, everything. May we speak privately?”
Jeanine looked at Edward. “Reschedule all of my morning appointments. You may let Drake and Tilly into my office, but no one else bothers us until I say otherwise.”
Captain Reel couldn’t hold back a protest. “My lady! This briefing—”
“Give the briefing to Drake,” Jeanine interrupted. “He speaks with my voice and authority on all matters concerning the security of the duchy.”
We swept past the outraged Captain and into her office. Jeanine led the way to the comfortable sitting area, well away from her desk. As we settled into the chairs, she simply said, “Give me a succinct description of the problem. I’ll have you fill in the details after that.”
I’d expected something like this request and was doubly glad for my meditative shower all those hours ago. Taking a deep, cleansing breath, I looked into Jeanine’s eyes.
“We have to destroy the Star Stone. The future of the star kingdom—and maybe the human race—depends on it.”
Jeanine merely nodded, acting no more surprised than if I’d just suggested a nice restaurant for lunch. “Tell me everything.”
This is the end of The Recognition Resistance (perhaps to be retitled The Recognition Rejection when it’s published). Your author apologizes for the cliffhanger ending, but not very deeply. He plans on taking a week off from writing, returning with the start of a new novel on April 10. He’s still not sure whether it will be a new Scout book or the next Recognition book. If you have a preference, leave a comment.