“Ah, Gerald. There you are.” Prime waved him over as the quartet began another interlude piece. Gerry tried not to be nervous, tugged his waistcoat straight and lifted his chin to stretch his neck free of his cravat, as if it had somehow gotten too tight in the instant between merely attending Prime's Neo Fall Fete and being addressed directly by the old man.
“Prime.” Gerry bowed deeply and held it until Perrin tapped him on the back of the head.
“That will do. Let me draw you away from these children playing at politics, hmmm?” How on earth can I answer that one without compromising or offending anyone? He contented himself with putting a look of polite inquiry on his face. “I am sorry to offer, Sir, that I am still not very amusing company after the unfortunate demise of my younger brother. My wife and maid and family are very distraught. He was a joy to be around.”
Prime grunted and waved a hand. “Yes, yes, your great loss. Your brother might have been a Literacy rebel had he survived.”
It was as though the old man had casually punched him in the gut before offering him a tea-biscuit. “Um, Your most Wise and Benificent Font of ALL Knowledge, would of course know any dodgy tendencies in my younger sib, but Sir, he was devastated at the finish of his prized post on the Moon.”
“Hrmm. Hmmph. Hrrrr. Well. He certainly presented a breezy and carefree enough demeanor.” Prime actually seemed to be thinking about it as he paced down the hall, a half-step ahead of Gerry. He was on his own two feet tonight, unlike the night at the laboratory fire when he'd showed up in a personal support chair. Tonight there was only the faintest of metallic sheen along the edges of fingers and the undersides of wrists. The metal supports glittered like a faintly painted on parody of a skeleton, twinkling on his skin, or just at the corners of his eyes. Metal to keep him in one piece while his medical 'phages re-built him.
“Hiding a broken heart, I assure you, Most Intelligent.” The footman drew open a gold-leafed door for them both.
“Of course,” Prime dismissed Gerald's concerns and qualms with a wave of his hand. “Gerald, I'd like you to actually meet my oldest son. He's back on planet, along with his grown spawn. His heir apparently even though it's female. It seems I shall be introducing Perrin Jr. to my own staff all evening. My son and I are cherishing a wonderful reconciliation!” And I'm a pig and a bakon's illegitimate rainbow-snake child. “Honoured Heir. It is an astonishing pleasure to meet you.” I am so desperately glad not to have the means to make you a compliant idiot anymore! “I never hoped to see the Father and the Son reconcilled.”
The young man whose hand he bowed over, was a solid man. Not whippet thin, but more built like a heavy horse or bird. His eyes gave nothing away at all as he nodded his acknowledgement and swept a hand to one side. “May I present my daughter, Jessica Merlin Stewart? She took her first and second doctorates on Steinpeltz.”
Gerald tried hard not to faint, being introduced directly to the Heir's Heir, and a girl to boot. She even wore her Keeper's chain on her own wrist, signifying she would speak for herself. “M...M... Milady Stewart.”
“Hello, Lordling Cameron,” she said quietly. “Let us hope that everyone's homecoming is so amicable.”
Dammit woman the old man hired me to make your father loyal to him and stupid. Are you so blind? I'm hoping wildly that my little brother finds a safe refuge of some kind and that your Grandsire doesn't decide that our family, Tech Second Class, is just too annoying and smash us like oyucks in his bathroom drain.