Fingers flew across a keyboard as they pounded out a flowing rhythm of thought. Occasionally, there was a pause in the beat as the shuffle of papers or the scratch of a pen interrupted the cacophony. Eventually, the keys would resume their clatter as a new thought was formed and the need to record it became more urgent.
Three monitors flickered as different applications were brought to the front, examined, then banished from sight. The small hands that precisely controlled each screen were covered in ink stains and did not hesitate as they seamlessly managed a myriad of functions. The flat surface on either side of the console's keys was covered in a tangled skein of of scattered papers, half-opened tomes, and haphazardly balanced notebooks, with pens doing double-duty as bookmarks and abandoned mugs of once-steaming liquid rested tepidly on coasters converted into paperweights.
The rest of the room was even worse. Books competed with each other for pride of place on shelves or chairs. There were books on the floor, stacked high enough that the center of balance was a concern. An assortment of odd artifacts were scattered throughout the room, ranging from replicas of Orakian weapons to Layan slicers and staves to articulated models of Layan monsters and Orakian robots. Dust was not a concern thanks to the softly-humming air filters, but it seemed like even a slight sneeze would have disastrous consequences.
The moon princess absentmindedly looked up from her terminal and turned her head to look at the entrance to her study. Kara smiled as she watched her mother enter. "Mama, are you feeling better today?"
Princess Thea Ra Mira picked her way through the stacks of books with a frown. Kara's mother was a petite, pretty woman, with not even a hint of gray in her thick green hair. Her health was fragile, so she spent a lot of time resting in her chambers. She only left her chambers when she was particularly healthy or her presence was absolutely necessary. Kara did her best to ignore the only other reason why her poor mother left her chambers.
"I'm feeling well, thank you," her mother said huffily. "Why in the world aren't you dressed?"
Kara blinked in surprise. "Dressed?"
Her mother gave her that long-suffering look she had when Kara had forgotten something. Kara looked down in embarrassment, pushed her glasses up, and scratched the tip of her nose. Her mother sighed. "And now you have ink on your nose as well as your hands. Come on, we should have just enough time to get you presentable. Up, up!"
"Mama?" Kara tried to ask, but her mother's iron grip had already fastened on her wrist. Princess Thea dragged her through the stacks of books without a second glance.
If it was not such a regular occurrence, the sight of the tiny mother dragging the taller daughter through the metallic corridors of Dahlia would have been a funny sight. As it was, Kara sighed glumly as Princess Thea took them towards the suite of rooms that belonged to the Kay Eshyr family. Her study was not too far from the family quarters, but there were still people cleaning and performing maintenance on the way, as well as the expected guards. Kara willfully ignored their knowing smiles.
The door to Kara's room hissed open at her mother's gesture. Her quarters were tidy, lacking any of the organized chaos of her study, and she paid no mind to her possessions as her mother hustled her toward the refresher. Her father, the great Layan hero Lune, was a king in all but name, master of the artificial moon Dahlia and the Layan half of Elysium. Though he lacked a title, her father's bloodline was prestigious, second only to one other, and Kara's mother provided all the Alisan royalty and titles she needed anyway. Lune did not have a palace per se, but he did have the best quarters on the moon, with an amenity scarce on the rest of the ship: actual showers.
"Now off with the jumpsuit. Our visitors are important," Princess Thea said, her eyes and voice belying her physical fragility. "Hurry, now."
Kara resisted the urge to sulk as she unzipped her simple jumpsuit and began to shrug out of it. She looked at her mother's outfit out of the corner of her eye as she peeled the leg sleeves off. Her mother wore a sky blue tunic that reached halfway down to her knees while matching stockings covered the rest of her legs. The fine stitches and hemline were red, and the red created a lovely design around her mother's petite bosom that made it look even shapelier. Her boots were the same red as the stitches, while her cape was snow white, held at her shoulder by a silver pad. A large red gemstone perched on top of where her mother's cleavage would be, while a fine double chain of red pearls woven into her hair could have doubled for a crown.
As Kara undid her underwear, her mother went to a large door and pressed a button. The pneumatic doors hissed open as her mother entered the large walk-in wardrobe that kept all of Kara's clothing. The only reason Kara had not begged off what would probably be another boring embassy so she could focus on her writing was that she loved wearing the beautiful outfits her mother got her. Kara dreaded spilling food or drink on the gorgeous garments and had made a rule for herself to only wear those lovely clothes for events. She took off her glasses, which she only used to reduce the light emissions from the monitors, and set them on the nightstand by her bed.
"Who is coming, Mama?" Kara asked as she stepped into the stall and opened the valve. Before her mother could answer, Kara yelped. She gasped out, "C-COLD!"
"That's what happens when you have your head in your histories instead of getting ready," her mother scolded, though there was a tone of satisfaction in her mother's voice. At least, Kara thought she heard a tone of satisfaction. It was hard to be sure with the icicles in her ears.
"And make sure to shampoo and cleanse thoroughly!"
"G-got t-to be...accurate," Kara chattered out as she quickly scrubbed at her body. If she was a mite more vigorous with her scrubbing than usual, it was simply because she wanted to be thorough, like her mother asked. She was not desperately seeking warmth.
"Accurate?" Princess Thea asked before she tsked. "No, this won't do. Kara, make sure to use the fresa-scented soap and shampoo."
"H-histories o-on ship are i-inaccurate," Kara forced out as she reached for the shampoo and soap that had the pleasant smell of the distinctive red berries the moon princess liked. "C-can't let them or it m-makes a m-mess."
"A mess? Oh, this should do nicely!"
"L-like the history on F-father's recent w-war," Kara sputtered out as she vigorously rubbed her scalp. "Inaccurate!"
"You mean the one written by the Divisians," Princess Thea noted. "Your father bested them in war. They've no interest in accuracy."
"I d-do!" Kara managed to get out fiercely before she resignedly stuck her head back under the ice cold torrent of water. The moment it touched her neck, she whimpered as shudders ran down her body. She gasped until the foam of shampoo and soap stopped, and turned off the valve. She reached out for a towel and stepped out into her room, which was much warmer than normal. Kara gave her mother a grateful look; the additional warmth meant that Princess Thea had turned on the room's heating system.
"I didn't want you to catch a cold," Princess Thea said with a slight smile. "Now, come get dressed. I'm not sure I understand your fascination with accuracy."
The moon princess' lips firmed into a thin line. "They should never be allowed to forget. Never."
Princess Thea was not Princess of Dahlia, but Princess of Shusoran. Long years before Kara had been born, her mother's homeland had been burned to the ground by Orakian robots. Her mother had been taken hostage by none other than the legendary Orakio's greatest general, the sentient android Siren. Sirjee Ryan Ka Shiumu had rescued her, and they had led the refugees of the Layan kingdoms of Cille and Shusoran to Elysium, where they had come under Father's protection. But the damage had been done. Thousands of dead innocent Layans, the destruction of over one thousand years of history, and her mother's illness and fragility.
Her mother's touch startled Kara. Princess Thea gently sat her down at her vanity and reached for the hair dryer. Kara stared into the mirror as her mother gently caressed the moon princess' wet hair before she turned on the hair dryer. The loud hum interrupted conversation as her mother skillfully removed tangles from Kara's lime green tresses with air and brush.
When her mother finished, Kara got up and began to dress. The silence continued as Kara put on her dress, pants, and shoes. She inspected herself in the mirror, astonished as always at how beautiful her clothes looked. Her mother had chosen sky blue for her as well, but in a much different style. The skirt on her one-piece dress was translucent and made her hips and legs enticing, shapely shadows. Her sleeves hung halfway down to her elbows, and were completely transparent. The bodice was a darker sky blue and cupped her breasts in a very flattering way. The neckline plunged just deep enough to reveal a hint of cleavage. Beneath her translucent skirt she wore sky blue pants and white heels that went with the rest of her. These clothes would convince anyone she was pretty.
"Don't be silly, Kara," her mother said, startling her as the moon princess was once again guided to the vanity. "The clothes have nothing to do with it. You are a beautiful young lady."
Kara realized she had spoken her thought aloud and gave her mother an embarrassed smile via the mirror. Her mother calmly reached for the brush and comb and began to fix her hair. It was such a common thing for other women, for their mothers to fix their hair. Kara's most cherished childhood memories were when her mother felt well enough to spend time with her. Did other women ever really appreciate their healthy mothers?
Did other women know they enjoyed their mother's approbation? It was a question that bothered her. Kara knew that her father and Aunt Alair bemoaned her scholarly nature. Lune had wanted a warrior to inherit his legacy. She did well enough with slicers that he allowed Kara her books and writings, but he frequently grumped at her lack of battle lust. Kara still did not know what her mother thought of it all.
I do his legacy a much better service as a scholar than a fighter.
"By what name do you call your father's most recent war?" Princess Thea asked suddenly. "The Divisians call it 'Lune's War,' as I recall."
The moon princess frowned into the mirror. "'Lune's War' is for half-educated dimwits who lost," she sniffed. "I'm using the Landenian name. 'The Champions' War' is much more suitable, as well as more accurate as to how it ended."
Princess Thea nodded as she resumed brushing Kara's hair. The Champions' War, ended via combat by actual champions. Her father Lune had been, and perhaps still was, the champion of Laya, ascended to myth and legend as a goddess. He had faced off with then-Prince Nial, champion of Landen and heir to Orakio, Laya's enemy, and against the younger Laya, sister of the original. The war had ended with her father's defeat and the younger Laya's command to make peace with honor.
The younger Laya and Nial had married, and from their union came the royal twins who carried the legacies of the two deities of the Alisa III. She had not seen either of them in seven years, and she sometimes wondered how they were faring. Kara had greatly admired the child Prince Adan and had found Princess Gwyn a wonderful friend and co-conspirator. She missed her coeval sometimes, but found she thought of Prince Adan quite frequently. She dismissed those musings as a childlike love of fairy tales.
"The Champions' War. I think your father would like that name more," Princess Thea commented. "Are you working on anything else?"
Kara looked at the mirror as her mother reached for jewelry. She was not sure whether or not to tell her mother. But her mother rarely showed any interest in Kara's historical studies, and she really did want her mother to know. "The Dragon's Loss."
Her mother froze in the act of fastening a silver necklace dotted with rubies. The Dragon's Loss was how the Cille and the Shusorani referred to the destruction of their homelands and Siren's hunt for them. It was a painful, difficult task, interviewing the survivors, gently digging out their memories of what had happened, consoling them even as she knitted together a coherent, cohesive narrative, but it was one she did not intend to allow anyone else to do. No one could ever be allowed to forget.
"I see." Her mother finished fastening the necklace before she put in the silver earrings with matching rubies. She finished by putting an exquisite silver coronet in Kara's hair. Princess Thea stepped back to examine her handiwork.
Kara looked at her reflection and smiled. She really did look like a princess. She said as much to her mother.
"Of course you do," Princess Thea snorted. "As I keep telling you, neither clothes nor jewels have anything to do with it."
Her mother's tone did not match the affectionate way Princess Thea stroked Kara's hair. The affectionate way Princess Thea was stroking her daughter's hair did not match the strange expression on her face. Whatever it meant, Kara put it out of mind. It was not her mother's fault, but Kara had rarely received physical affection from her, and intended to enjoy every second while her mother was well enough to give it.
"I imagine it might be difficult to get your father to sit down to discuss the war for your history," Princess Thea said.
The moon princess sighed glumly. Lune did not have a liking for academic details. He would tell war stories, but he had precious little patience for the sort of intensive interview process that writing a history required. She nodded ruefully. "It will be. I don't even know how to start."
"I will speak to him about it after we receive our visitors. We'll be available whenever you need us for your histories."
Before Kara could thank her mother, she realized that Princess Thea had said histories. She stared at her mother in shock. Did that mean...?
Princess Thea met her gaze with a fond smile. "I can trust our story to you. You will do well."
Kara bounded up to her feet and embraced her mother tightly. She had her answer.