Invitations

Reginald frowned at his collar, wondering why it became lopsided only after he donned his tunic. He examined it closely in the mirror–only slightly crooked but nonetheless noticeable. He shrugged off his tunic for the third time that morning, his collar magically straightening as a result. Sighing, he tended to his collar, tugging and pulling at it with noble dexterity.

“Some Holders have people for this,” He muttered under his breath.

But it had been years since someone had actually helped him get dressed in the morning. And he remembered why. He shook the memory away, of his father’s business prospects drying up immediately after he brought Reginald’s new–and unexpected–baby sister back from the Caldari State. He shook away the memory of his mother being outraged, of how she left the family. He shook away the memory of his father not having enough ISK to pay the tuition for Reginald to attend the Royal Amarr Institute. He shook away the memory of not being at his father’s funeral after he had committed suicide. A familiar string of bad memories.

He tugged violently at the collar, pulling out a button. He heard it land on the ground with two skips and a roll before settling down with a soft rattle. Cursing softly, he unbuttoned the shirt calmly and threw it off to the side. He walked over to a large walk-in dresser and found an exact duplicate, removing it from the hangar and going through the motions of putting it on. He returned to the mirror, taking a deep breath as he threw on the tunic as well.

Still crooked. What an excellent way to begin the morning. Perhaps it would have been better to go with the normal routine.

Looking up to make sure the voice sensor heard him, he stated, “Play music.”

Soft instrumental [think impressionistic piano] music started to drift into the room, the notes less a discernible melody than a pleasant medley of tones, timbres, and harmonies. He walked to a counter and started boiling water for tea, watching patiently as the heat bubbled into a gentle roll.

Taking out a tin of tea leaves, he stated clearly, “To-Do List.”

A computer voice responded diligently:

“Meet with shareholders regarding emancipation ceremony.”

“Send it to public relations.”

“Develop security protocols for emancipation ceremony.”

“Taken care of.”

“Write invitation to Lady Lianne.”

Reginald paused, letting the boiling water cool, “I haven’t done that, yet?”

“Write invitation to Lady Lianne.”

“Yes, I heard you the first time,” Reginald snapped at the computer voice.

He took the kettle and poured it into a clear teapot over the leaves. The aroma of warm tea wafted over the counter, the water turning a shade of amber. He reached for sugar and milk, his brow furrowed. How did he overlook the invitation?

“Begin dictation.”

The volume of the music decreased drastically to accommodate his request. He poured some milk into a teacup–always milk in first–then added a generous amount of the warm amber liquid. Taking a spoon, he stirred in some sugar, pleased at the hue of the tea. He indulged in a light inhalation of the fragrance, raised the cup to his lips, and took a sip.

Too hot.

Yelping, he nearly dropped the teacup on the counter as the searing pain of a burning tongue overwhelmed his senses. He reached for a glass and poured himself water, but the damage was done–the feeling would last for days. Setting the teacup back on the surface, he ran his tongue against his teeth to assess the damage. He hoped that it wasn’t extensive. Sipping water carefully, he retreated to the center of the room, no longer in the mood for tea.

“Dearest Shalee–” he started, “Wait a minute. Play that back.”

The distinctive sound of him yelping in pain could be heard, followed minutes after by “Dearest Shalee.”

“Start over,” He commanded.

He cleared his throat, “Dearest Shalee,” he stopped again.

Was that too familiar? He referred to her in public as Lady Lianne, or “my lady” whenever he was addressing her directly. So why would he call her by her first name, now? He gave the command to begin again.

“Lady Lianne,” He halted.

“Lady Lianne” certainly took into consideration her Holder birth, but she almost never advertised the fact that she was indeed a Holder. And even if she did choose to overlook that particular form of address, it ignored the fact that she was the Executor of one of the more successful imperial alliances in the entirety of the 24th Imperial Crusade.

He tried again, “Lady Executor Lianne.”

But now the problem was that it sounded too formal. How many times had she said formality was secondary at the Terrace? But then again, this was a formal invitation.

He took a sip of water, “Lady Executor Lianne. I would like to cordially–”

But who used the word “I” in formal invitations? What was he, an amateur? He drew back upon the years of parties, gatherings, and celebrations his mother had forced him to attend–at least, had forced him to attend before she left his father. He buried the memory of watching his mother return to her own family and tried to focus on preparations.

“Lady Executor Lianne, you are cordially invited to attend the Official Heart of Pyerite Emancipation Ceremony, to take place in the system of Saikamon.”

So was that it? He thought for a moment. Not even close. The ceremony would be followed by another one that would officially establish the University of Saikamon, into which many former slaves were eager to matriculate. After that, there was the issue of dinner, which he had not even begun to consider. So many details. He’d have to include an asterisk about additional information being forthcoming following her availability.

And then there was the door.

“Stop dictation.”

He stood in the middle of the room, the glass of water still firmly in his hands. The last time he had tried to obtain information about Red, Lady Lianne had become almost hysterical. He had only seen the ghostly projection once, and at the time, he was reeling from the exhaustion of the disastrous Huola Campaign. But she was fascinating–and in more ways than being a simple key to get him back to the Box.

“Include the following lines in the invitation but under layered encryption sequences–I don’t want it visible under the standard Imperial Outlaws decryption algorithms. Let’s use–,” He pondered for a moment, realizing that having access to the Box would have made this much easier, “Use the old Heart of Pyerite codes within the Vitoc Health Services database, she’ll have a more difficult time finding the answer to the puzzle–what with their control towers no longer in existence. But yes, include the following:

‘Hello Red. You can call me Regi. I would like to meet you.’

Yes. That’ll do. I suppose, put it in the asterisk.”

Now, Red would either see her invitation or not see it, with Shalee being none the wiser. He felt a cold twinge at the thought–subverting Shalee in order to meet Red, but it was not as if there was no reason. As for Red’s abilities–if she saw the invitation, then that was that and he could move forward. And if not, then no harm done.

He took a sip of water, “As for the invitation, we’ll go with what we have for now.”

He would need to develop a menu. But what kind of food and drink did she enjoy? He could always ask around. Perhaps now was a good time to go back to the Terrace.

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