Chakats © Bernard Doove/Chakat Goldfur used with permission




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In the end, Kryslin got a demonstration of what the two young ladies could do; Lacus had a very good voice, plenty of talent, and a whole lot of natural, innocent charm. She wasn't afraid to try things, either. She had asked Kryslin if there was anything she'd like to hear, and immediately proceeded to sing her way through Yellow Belmont's Lonely Soldier Boy and Blue Rain, even though her voice lacked the sultriness for the latter. Ariane 3, or Ar3 as she preferred to be called, demonstrated her aptitude with information and the sciences, answering some rather difficult questions put to her by both Kryslin and Ariane. Kryslin also noted some of Ar3's glances and body language as Ariane 2 praised Lacus, but didn't say anything to her. She could see there were problems between mother and daughter, ones that would eventually become painful ones.


Sharpe, of course, attempted to sing with Lacus, got clobbered with a pillow, then pressed a key on Ar3's terminal while she was answering her questions, which got him clobbered with another pillow, and then proceeded to make grabs at Kryslin's tail, which got him a short, mock fighting session with Kryslin, who tickled him into submission.


“I believe it is time for Sera Enderchai to go,” said Ariane, noting the hour getting late.


All three lined up; Sharpe saluted, Lacus bowed, and Ar3 gave a polite nod. “Thank you for stopping by,” all three said, before they were shooed back to their room by Anton.


It was Ariane herself who walked Kryslin back up to the reception area. She stopped the elevator between floors. “There's a question I want to ask you,” Ariane asked, quietly. “How do you manage, with the all children and grandchildren, and the job you do?”


“While Leonov was still alive,” Kryslin replied, “it was easy. I could count on his support, and we managed. After the sky came crashing down, I found myself alone with Kaltyn, my son. I became withdrawn, and ignored his needs, attempting to forget my pain in my duties. The end, when it came, wasn't pleasant, and he walked out of my life as soon as he turned sixteen. By some quirk of fate, he became crew on one of my ships, and died at his post when his ship was holed, bow to stern.”


“When Agena was found, I vowed not to make the same mistakes twice. My family comes first, Ariane; their needs before mine. I spend all the time I can with them, leave them alone when they need to be left alone, be there for them when they need support. I did this,” she said, gesturing to her altered form, “So my granddaughter would have someone who knew what she was going through. If that means not being at my job for a period of time, then I make sure people are in place that can do my job when I leave. It's as simple as that.”


“I can see why you're asking,” the lynx continued. “Ar3 is insanely jealous of Lacus, who you shower attention on. There is going to be trouble, sooner or later, trouble you can't run from. I'd start getting some people you can trust to run some of the minor things you normally handle, ease off on your own schedule some, and spend some more time with your daughter. Sharpe won't be around all the time to keep her off of Lacus. In fact, why don't you introduce Ar3 to some of those minor tasks you take care of? She strikes me as being more than capable. That clears your schedule a bit, introduces her to the work she'll eventually have to do, and gives you more time to be together.”


“If it were so easy,” Ariane said, glumly. She had wanted to keep Ar3 away from the killer work environment that was the administrative offices for Reseune Labs. “I'll try, then. If you want, I can arrange to have Lacus perform for your units, as a way of saying thank you?”


Kryslin shook her head. “Do a charity concert for the Kiarbannon Institute, instead. Yellow Belmont already has this year's 'Founder's Day' show booked.”


Ariane keyed the restart on the elevator. “We'll see.”

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