Tilly and Olivia wait for the destruction of the Star Stone.
Olivia was true to her word.
“Lieutenant,” she said as we rejoined him in the hallway, “I have pardoned Tilly Smythe-Warrington for all crimes, known or unknown, she has committed. The same applies to her companion Jana…”
Olivia trailed off and glanced at me, reminding me she didn’t know Jana’s last name. I hated divulging that without Jana’s permission, but was certain Jana would understand and approve. “Ward. Her last name is Ward.”
“Thank you,” Olivia replied. “My pardon applies to Jana Ward and companions to be named later. The manhunt for them is hereby canceled. Tell the RIA commander to recall all agents and reassign them as needed.”
From the look in the officer’s eyes, he was full of questions he dared not ask. He did the one thing he could do in this situation. Snapping to attention and saluting, he said, “I will convey your orders immediately, Your Highness.”
“I’ll put the official orders on the network once I return to my office.” She offered the man a smile, “Thank you for your assistance. You are dismissed.”
Entering Olivia’s office, she asked me, “Are you fully recovered from the stun shot? Shall I send for my doctor?”
I shook my head, “No, I’m recovering fine. I am hungry, though.”
Olivia’s assistant already had her comm in hand — to call the doctor, I guess — and immediately placed a lunch order.
While we waited for the food, Olivia entered the pardons into the network. Handing me a data stick, she said, “It will take several days for the pardons to work their way to all planets in the Star Kingdom. If anyone questions it before then, the data stick has the details.”
When the food arrived, I tore into a delicious lunch. Olivia, on the other hand, moped. There’s really not another word for it. She sighed dramatically, massaged her temples, buried her face in her hands, and generally looked miserable.
Strangely enough, I found myself moved to compassion for her. Why the hell did I feel sympathy for this woman? All she’d done was make Jeanine’s life hell for years. More recently, she’d sicced the full might of the Royal Intelligence Agency on my friends and me, chasing us underground, and eventually capturing me. All to stop us from saving humanity from the machinations of an extinct alien race and their diabolical artifact.
But, in the end, Olivia backed off. She…believed us. Well, she believed Jeanine, anyway. And once Olivia believed, she called off her hounds and gave Jana free rein to do what Jana does best. Olivia only owed explanations to one person but I doubted Queen Charlotte would be easily swayed. In effect, Olivia risked everything she held dear — her title, her husband, and maybe even the future of her unborn child — to do the right thing.
That didn’t make me like her but it did make me respect her. I just hoped Jana could make all the sacrifices worth while.
And Jana did.
I can’t explain it but Olivia’s expression…changed. Her head lifted and her eyes darted about the room as if looking for something familiar that suddenly went missing.
“It’s over,” Olivia said more to herself than me. Dropping her head back into her hands, she added, “The Star Stone is gone.”
“It’s not the end of the galaxy unless you let it be,” I said. “Hell, if you play things right this will increase your power, not decrease it.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Olivia spat. “The Star Stone has been the arbiter of succession among the nobility for thousands of years. Now it’s gone and our claim to the throne goes with it.”
Olivia looked at me as if I was an idiot. “Because it’s gone, Tilly. You do understand what that word means?”
I shook my head, “I’m pretty sure the Star Stone is right where it’s always been. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t someone have raised an alarm?”
The princess sighed in exasperation, “Fine, the corpse of the Star Stone remains. But what made it work is no more.”
“What made it work was a crimson glow that enveloped people and retreated. As the children’s story says, that signifies that God and the Star Stone find the person worthy.” I caught Olivia’s gaze and held it. “Seems to me you just need an effect that duplicates the crimson glow and the whole Star Kingdom can just keep on handling successions the way it has for millennia.”
Olivia’s eyes widened, “I never considered it that way.”
“I’ll bet you the Queen likes this change, too. After all, now the Royal family controls all successions among the nobility. If someone you don’t like shows up you just don’t turn on the light show. Bam, they’re rejected by the Star Stone.”
“You’re right! That’s brilliant, Tilly!”
“It is, isn’t it?”
To my surprise, Olivia burst out laughing. Once begun, she laughed long and loud and, to my relief, didn’t sound psychotic at all. When she finally wound down our attitudes toward each other had changed. We still weren’t best girlfriends — not even close — but we could talk to each other easily. I found myself wondering if this personable Olivia had been there all along or if she’d only just emerged from the Star Stone’s captivity.
The next morning, as promised, Olivia personally escorted me to the Rising Star. Less than an hour later, the five of us — Jana, Nathan, Mark, Kelly, and me — lifted from Xapreathea and headed home.
Find out how it all ends when The Recognition Resistance wrap up with Chapter 62, coming Friday.