Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Queen Louise XVI’s afternoon reading was interrupted by the message ‘Governess LaPointe requests audience’ scrolling across the page of text which hung in space before her.

“Granted,” she spoke aloud, waving the texts into the ether.

The comfortable silence was shattered by the staccato barrage of heel on stone as a woman swept through the doors of the Great Hall, past the Imperial Guard, and past the Royal Family; sixteen pairs of twins in dresses and curls sitting at chess boards, or on couches reading or talking quietly.

She covered the length of the room in quick, steady strides, stopping barely a meter from her Queen and dropping to one knee, her eyes downcast. “Your Majesty,” her voice dripped of something foul; condescension? contempt?

“Rise,” the Queen commanded. “Speak.”

The Governess stood, eying the Queen. “Your Majesty, there has been unauthorized access of the library data, of the forbidden tomes.” She paused, glancing sideways as Clara and Cloë straightened as one, suddenly interested.

The Queen folded her hands. “And that concerns you how?” Accusation, that was the tone.

“The data in question details the time before the Whyjean Complex, the Time of Men.” The Governess straightened. “I believe that you know of these intrusions, that they are made on your command.”

The Queen smiled cooly. “And what interest have I in the Time of Men?”

LaPointe smiled, thin lipped and cruel. “You desire a male of your own, not a eunuch but a breeding male. I have proof of your deceit, and when I present my proof to the Council of Creation, they will surely have your throne.”

“Fascinating.” The Queen gazed about the room; Alice and Alexandra lost in a game, Trinity and Tari napping, Salena and Sami reading together. “Why accuse me here, why not go straight to council?”

The Governess folded her arms. “I’m giving you a chance to confess, to banish yourself quietly.”

“And leave you to succeed me? You’re very sure of yourself.” The Queen drew her finger along an elaborate carved cross set into the arm of her throne. “Would you swear to the Holy Mother on the existence of this proof?”  The Queen released the cross from it’s mooring and held it out to the Governess, who grasped it white knuckled as she spoke, eyes locked on the Queen’s. “I swear, on the Holy Mother…”

The Queen pulled back on the cross, leaving the Governess holding the thin tapered dagger that had been concealed inside.

“Guards, she’s come to kill me!” The Queen yelled, stirring the Imperial Guard to action.

“What? No, no, I didn’t…” the Governess stepped back, raising her hands, the shining dagger catching the light as the Guard flanked the Queen, weapons discharging in unison, the woman thrown backwards to the floor.

The Queen raised her hand, and the Guard held fast as she moved to the fallen Governess, kneeled at her side and cupping the dying woman’s face in her hands, turned her towards her startled children.

“I don’t intend to breed a man,” she hissed in her ear. “Look at them, Cloë and Clara, Clarence. Alice and Alexandra, Alexander. Sixteen perfect princesses, sixteen perfect princes. Plumped and primped, curled hair and dresses, hidden in plain sight to one day redefine this matriarchy and restore the monarchy.”

She placed a finger on quivering lips, watched the horror in her eyes as life left her.

Rising, she addressed the Guard. “She was stricken with a plague of madness. Cremate her, incinerate her quarters. Let there be no trace of her disease.”

Disease, she thought, they were desperate for genetic disorder.

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